The movement to engage more girls in STEM is in full force and has the backing of the White House. In fact, at its annual science fair in May, girls made up more than half of the participating students! The 2014 White House Science Fair theme focused on girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The science fair is what the White House calls a “day-long showcase of innovative projects, patent-worthy inventions, and potentially life-saving discoveries made by America’s brightest young minds.” Among student exhibitors included a young researcher working to develop an anti-flu vaccine and a group of girl coders who built an app to help their visually impaired classmate.
President Obama explained the focus was to inspire girls and young women who are excelling in science. Plus, he noted that “fewer than 3 in 10 workers in science and engineering are women … we’ve got to change those numbers.”
The Science Fair also was a great place to kick off what will be a series of role model roundtables between the young girls and female White House STEM leaders. Young female participants met in the Roosevelt Room to discuss STEM with various Administrative Leaders. Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and Girls Executive Director Tina Tchen, will lead the charge on the roundtable discussions in the coming year.
Since the beginning of his Administration, the President has been committed to getting more underrepresented groups, including women and girls, excited to excel at STEM subjects. According to its Website, the Administration continues to engage in the Equal Futures Partnership—an international collaboration to promote women’s economic and political participation, citing opening doors to women and girls in STEM fields as a major priority area for the U.S. domestic commitments.
The White House initiative isn’t the only one making headlines recently. Even the Girl Scouts are researching and talking about bridging the gap in STEM for girls in the Girl Scout Research Institute’s report, Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Disturbing is the fact that young girls don’t know a lot about STEM careers and the opportunities afforded by STEM fields—60 percent of STEM-interested girls acknowledged that they know more about other careers than they do about STEM careers. The report also found that girls were drawn to the creative and hands-on aspects of STEM, which is no surprise. Girls enjoy the hands-on exploration and discovery. Plus, they recognize the benefits of a challenge: 89 percent of all girls agree that “obstacles make me stronger.”
The Discovery Channel and Discovery Education recently announced they will increase their focus on engaging and increasing the number of women and girls in STEM. Plans are underway to air public service announcements focused on the need to recruit STEM mentors to help encourage younger students to get involved in STEM, particularly girls. The host of Discovery Channel’s MythBusters, Kari Byron, began filming at the White House Science Fair talking with girls participating in the fair. A virtual field trip to the White House Science Fair also was filmed for the webinar series, Of the People: Live from the White House.
Lastly, the American Association of University of Women (AAUW) expanded their Tech Trek Summer Camps. Originally developed to engage and support girls in STEM, the first camp was held at Stanford University in California fifteen years ago. The camps expanded to 10 throughout the state, and in 2013, Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Washington offered Tech Trek Summer Camps. Three additional states, New Mexico, Oregon, and Alabama, will host their first Tech Trek Summer Camps this year. The weeklong camp immerses girls in an environment where they feel empowered and are encouraged to think of themselves as future scientists, engineers, mathematicians and computer specialists. One camper from Washington said, “I had always been worried about going into a male-dominated field. Tech Trek has made me feel more confident about my abilities in STEM and has made me want to follow my dreams of becoming a medical engineer.”
So many public and private organizations are finding the need to engage girls in STEM a top priority for our future. Parents and teachers also can inspire girls at a young age through STEM-related events and educational projects like Groovy Lab in a Box. Get your STEMists excited about STEM by ordering your Groovy Lab in a Box subscription today!