If you ask your students to draw a picture of a mathematician or a scientist, there’s a good chance they’ll draw a man rather than a woman. Unfortunately, this is a current reflection of the STEM field and it’s lack of female representation in STEM careers.
While women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, they only comprise 28% of the science and engineering workforce. And though the number of women pursuing STEM degrees every year has increased significantly over the past decade, the gender gap in STEM persists.
Thankfully, there are organizations that are dedicated to introducing girls to STEM and bringing more women into the field. Below we’ve highlighted a few that are making big strides in achieving gender equity in STEM careers.
Based in Austin, Texas, Girlstart’s mission is to “increase girls’ interest and engagement in STEM.” To achieve this, the organization has designed and implemented innovative, high-quality informal STEM education programs for girls in Texas. So far, Girlstart has served more than 28,000 girls (including nearly 2,300 girls served in afterschool), hosted 133 community STEM events and helped 300 girls attend Girls in STEM conferences. With programs like Girlstart After School, STEM Extravaganza and DeSTEMber, the organization aims to:
- Foster STEM skill development
- Teach the value of STEM in solving the world’s major problems
- Spark girls’ interest in STEM majors and careers
To learn more about Girlstart or to donate time or resources to their mission, visit girlstart.org.
2. Girls Who Code
While computing (which includes coding/programming) is one of the fastest growing jobs in the US, fewer than 1 in 5 computer science graduates are women. Girls Who Code is one organization looking to reverse that trend.
Through a number of programs - like after-school programs, summer courses, college loops and a 7-week summer immersion program - Girls Who Code is on a mission to close the gender gap in technology while changing the image of what a programmer looks like and does. Through the programs, the organization also:
- Provides learning opportunities to deepen students’ computer science skills and their confidence
- Creates clear pathways for alumni from middle and high school into the computing workforce
- Builds a sisterhood of peers and role models to help students and alumni persist and succeed
Girls Who Code is helping to build girls’ interest and skills early on to “create the largest pipeline of future female engineers in the United States.” For more information about the organization, visit girlswhocode.com.
3. Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
In her 2013 TEDx talk titled, “Inspiring the next generation of female engineers,” engineer and GoldieBox creator Debbie Sterling discussed the challenges of entering the engineering field as a woman. At the time of her talk, only 11% of the engineers in the US were women.
Since then, Debbie and many other educators, organizations and advocates, have fought tirelessly to encourage more girls to choose a career in engineering. In fact, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) started its own initiative to further the cause. With a SWENext membership, girls can prepare for careers in engineering and technology while also:
- Developing the leadership skills and self-confidence needed to succeed in the field
- Learning the value of engineering professions in improving the quality of life
- Understanding the value of diversity and inclusion
- Becoming advocates for peers and younger girls
And through its annual conference, SWE also offers the Invent It. Build It. event to give middle- and high-school girls a hands-on engineering experience with its members. While the girls are having fun building and inventing, parents and educators will learn about engineering careers, scholarships, college admission and resources. Through this two-part initiative, the Society of Women Engineers is helping to change the face of engineering for young girls.
Check out Girls and Engineering: 5 Ways to Spark Their Interest for activity ideas for your students
4. National Girls Collaborative Project
One of the major barriers to STEM education for young girls is access. Some girls, particularly those who are economically disadvantaged, lack access to educational opportunities exposing them to STEM fields and skills. The National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) aims to close the access gap by bringing together organizations that are committed to informing and encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM.
The goals of the NGCP is to use collaboration to:
- Maximize access to shared resources for projects and organizations aimed at expanding girls’ participation in STEM
- Strengthen projects by sharing practice research and program models, outcomes and projects
- Leverage the collaboration and network of girl-serving STEM programs to achieve gender equity in STEM
Thanks to the NGCP’s efforts, there are currently 33 collaboratives in 41 states, facilitating collaboration between 36,400 organizations who serve 20.15 million girls and 9.5 million boys. Visit the organization’s website to get involved or donate to its various initiatives.
Society as a whole benefits from engaging girls in STEM and encouraging them to pursue STEM careers. And fortunately, these organizations and many others are dedicated to inspiring future scientists, engineers, mathematicians and programmers. For tips on encouraging more girls to consider STEM, read 6 Proven Tips to Combat Gender Bias in STEM Education.