Girls are gifted in science and math, but they’re missing from fields that need their talents…
“More than ever before, girls are studying and excelling in science and mathematics,” writes Catherine Hill of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), in Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing, a report she co-authored. “Yet the dramatic increase in girls’ educational achievements in scientific and mathematical subjects has not been matched by similar increases in the representation of women working as engineers and computing professionals,” she writes. “Just 12 percent of engineers are women, and the number of women in computing has fallen from 35 percent in 1990 to just 26 percent today.”
STEM subjects are losing girls at every stage. In elementary school, about 74% of girls are interested in science and math, and they excel at these subjects. But often, when a girl performs poorly in math, she is steered away from it, maybe because her parents, her teachers, or her counselors have told her that math was not for her. As a result, many girls in their teens lack the confidence to push forward in math and science.
They are not encouraged. They lack mentors. Chances are they have never met a woman CEO or a woman in technology. In addition, at school or later in meetings, the body language of these girls is hesitant, and when they raise their hand it’s with timidity, so they don’t get called on to respond. By now there are fewer of them and they don’t feel like they belong. By the time girls get to high school and college, only 14% of girls are interested in pursuing STEM careers.
They become reluctant to raise their hand and speak up in class. Instead of giving girls the confidence to pursue their interests in STEM, girls have been taught to drop out of these subjects.
If we are to close the gap of inequality, we must begin with how and what we teach our daughters.
I believe we can make a change. It starts with inspiring girls to stand up and to start up. This is what I set out to do when I founded VentureLab. My main goal in starting VentureLab was to change the reality surrounding females in STEM by providing them with early entrepreneurship training to spark their interest in these high-impact fields and careers. After years of teaching at the university level and now teaching K-12, I have come to identify three keys to building our pipeline of women engineers and innovators, which I will explore over the next few posts.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about the girls in your life, and your encouragement of them if they are interested in science or math. What do you do when they experience setbacks? Thank you for sharing.