4 Key Problems Girls Face in STEM
Blog Post: 4 Key Problems Girls Face in STEM
Have you ever wondered why there are imbalances in the representation of females and minorities in STEM-based fields? Although 50 percent of the female population are in college-educated careers, only 28 percent are currently in STEM careers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019).
So, what is behind the discrepancy?
The problem is rooted in the way women learn how they “should” behave and look, as well as the job fields that are “appropriate” to pursue. In addition to the media influencing how girls see themselves, parents can unknowingly contribute to this problem.
According to a report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the gender gap in STEM fields is a result of gender stereotypes, male-dominated cultures, few women role models, and math anxiety passed down by female teachers conditioned to “assume girls need to work harder to achieve the same level as boys” (AAUW, 2019).
While every situation is unique, there are four main obstacles girls face in STEM fields.
The environment a child grows up in shapes who they are. Their interests and hobbies are often influenced by what society believes girls “can” and “should” do. A Microsoft study found that over half of middle-school girls are interested in pursuing a STEM career, but the rate significantly drops as they grow older (Microsoft, 2018). This change is a result of girls learning to fit in with the mold society has created.
It is clear society impacts the rate girls pursue STEM fields. In general, science, technology, engineering, and math careers are considered male-dominated in nature. Women are seen as less competent or likable in these fields, making them more likely to quit early on from choosing STEM career paths (Built By Me, 2019).
It should come as no surprise that these stereotypes affect girls’ growth, motivation, and self-confidence in STEM.
Although it is now illegal to discriminate against anyone based on gender, race, ethnicity, or culture, there are still income gaps between equally-qualified men and women within STEM fields. Employers may claim not to discriminate against anyone based on gender, race, disability, or culture, but many women in STEM fields have claimed to experience gender discrimination (Pew Research, 2018).
As a result of hostile work environments, many women in STEM ultimately quit their jobs in favor of careers in which they will be more respected. (WGU, 2019). This cycle must stop.
In the same way girls look to their mothers for parenting examples, they look at professional women to inspire their own career goals. When they do, they rarely see someone who looks like them. Without mentors showing young girls they can be scientists, engineers, IT specialists, or mathematicians, our daughters will not grasp the realm of possibility. They will doubt whether they can succeed in STEM fields.
Fortunately, studies have determined that increasing females’ presence in STEM is as simple as providing our daughters with more STEM role models, especially parents (including dads!). The findings show that “girls who are encouraged by their parents are twice as likely to stay in STEM” (Microsoft, 2018).
As parents, we must highlight significant female figures in STEM fields and find mentors to demonstrate that they can thrive in these positions.
Boys are often gifted science experiment kits, building blocks, and other toys that support analytical thinking. On the other hand, girls get traditional baby dolls, princesses, and other domesticated or superficial toys. Who said our girls have to choose between science and femininity? Surprise Powerz dolls are STEM female role models that look and sound like girls. Plus, they teach them over 75 STEM phrases.
Kids’ minds develop from a very young age, and their toys and activities will mold the person they become later in life.
When girls play with toys that nurture their curiosity and creativity, they will develop self-confidence and believe they can pursue careers in STEM fields. Otherwise, they will look to other sources to shape their future, like mass media and brands that present the idea of what a woman “should” be.
What’s the Solution?
- Start early. Headstart, preschool, and kindergarten children are capable of learning basic science and math principles. Provide them with the tools they need to ask questions and discover the solutions.
- Embrace girl-centric media. Watch movies like Hidden Figures, read books together about women in STEM, and show them media representation that reflects women’s endless possibilities in these positions.
- Use language that affirms their unlimited potential. For example, if your daughter notices something cool, say, “Good observation, you little scientist!” Words are powerful.
- Help them recognize and name the eight STEM elements:
- Give them toys that demonstrate females in these careers. Dolls could be astronauts or doctors in addition to hairstylists or fashion designers. It’s not about cutting out traditionally female career paths but rather introducing more options for our young girls. Show them they can do whatever they want in life.
Visit www.surprisepowerz.com to learn more about empowering young girls so they can see themselves as smart and capable in any career. Don’t delay promoting girl power!