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Why It’s So Important to Have Girls in STEM Education

 

All You Need to Know About International Day of Women and Girls in Science

The growing number of women and girls making meaningful contributions to STEM education is something to recognize and celebrate. That’s why, in 2015, the United Nations introduced the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Each year on February 11th, the world recognizes the integral role women and girls play in STEM. This year, countries across the globe will come together virtually for the 6th International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly. This event, hosted at the UN headquarters, will spotlight the outstanding achievements of women and girls in fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The theme of this year’s assembly will be “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19” (United Nations). Women and girls are making a notable impact in the field of STEM.

Launching Research with New STEM Education Equipment

As we head into an era that is making a true effort to include girls in STEM fields, it is important that everyone joins in the mission. At the Morning Star Foundation, we are always finding innovative ways to encourage women and girls to explore STEM education. To further this goal, we awarded a grant to North Central High School. With this grant, the school purchased a minION Nanopore Sequencer. Dan Shay, a teacher at North Central, told us how this technology has helped his students gain a deeper understanding of the genomes of various organisms. With the proper tools and encouragement, girls can find real success in the field of STEM.

Reasons why STEM education is important to girls

Traditionally, math, science, and related fields have been thought to be more suited for boys. Therefore, boys are more likely to explore these fields than girls. This perception has had real effects on girls’ confidence in their STEM abilities. Many girls believe they are bad at math and science even though their test scores are virtually the same as boys (Silva, 2019). By supporting girls in their STEM endeavours, we can restore their confidence in themselves and their skills. Self confidence and self awareness are the first steps in garnering academic success. Making STEM education a friendly place for girls will grow their confidence and create wonderful new opportunities for their future.

Once girls are confident that they belong in a STEM field of study, they will be more comfortable with computers and technology. As a society, we are embracing technology in almost every aspect of life. Around 89% of households in America have a computer or smartphone (census.gov). Nearly half of all households have a computer, smartphone, tablet, and broadband internet connection. Most people engage with some form of technology every day.
Right now, many women and girls do not think of themselves as tech savvy. This is changing, however, as more and more girls are learning to code and program. Since our reliance on computers and technology will only become more prominent in the coming years, it is important that everyone, especially girls, feels comfortable and confident using these tools.

Additionally, in our constantly changing unpredictable world, solid problem solving skills can help propel young girls towards their goals. The best way to teach problem solving is through STEM education.

“Without question, students learn an incredible amount of academic content while engaging in authentic research. But, on top of that, they learn to persist through failure, work as a team and solve problems.” – Dan Shay

The process of setting up an experiment, making a prediction, testing that prediction, and analysing the results, requires critical thinking. Why did one experiment work and not the other? What can we change for next time to get a better result? These questions challenge a student to think critically and get creative to solve a problem. The best part is this type of thinking can be used outside of STEM and applied to almost any situation in life. Teaching young girls to use their minds in this way through STEM education hones their problem solving skills and sets them up for success in the future.

Innovative Ways to Promote Girls in STEM Education

Building up girls’ confidence early on is one of the main ways to help girls succeed in STEM education. Exposure to STEM education has to remain consistent throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Studies show that participation and ability in STEM subjects for boys and girls remains pretty equal up until high school (Berwick, 2019). As college approaches, fewer and fewer girls enroll in high level STEM courses. Constantly challenging the idea that professionals such as mathematicians, computer scientists, and chemists are usually males can help girls see that women are making huge strides in these fields too.

Another way to encourage girls to explore STEM is connecting them to a mentor. This can help empower girls to pursue a degree in STEM since mentorship can help overcome the self doubt that many girls experience in the later years of high school. Having a working professional in the field you are interested in to look up to can show girls that they can do that too. Seeing their future self represented in a mentor can give girls the courage to work towards their goals.

Letting girls conduct their own research is also a great way to get girls excited about STEM education. According to Dan Shay, “Research shows that the most effective way to retain girls (and other underserved populations) is to give them early experiences in conducting their own research. Our program strives to not only give them research experience, but to give them really high level tools in order to conduct their research.”

Learning the scientific method provides a way for girls to take ownership of their work and pride in their achievements. At North Central, girls are taking the lead on an exciting experiment conducted with the new gene sequencer:

“While this year has been slow to start, we have been able to use this equipment in research with several of our student groups. In particular, one of those research teams consists of two very talented young women. Hanna and Meilin began this year by partnering with the Lands Council to help develop a project around PCB Bioremediation.”

These impressive achievements of the girls in STEM education at North Central proves how important it is to build girls’ confidence in these areas and encourage them to continue exploring. It allows girls to open up to new areas of growth so they can be more creative, develop new ideas, and meet the challenges they will face in life.

What girls will achieve in their lives is only limited by how strongly they believe in themselves and the level of self-confidence and self-awareness they develop as a youth. STEM education fuels girls’ self-confidence and instills belief in their own success. That’s why Morning Star Foundation invests in education programs that engage, empower, and inspire struggling girls to believe in their future. Learn more about what we’re doing in the community to support these kids by clicking on the button below.

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