Strategies to Encourage Participation in STEM

by Nicole Simmons


Strategies to Encourage Participation in STEM

Girls have the same potential as boys when it comes to STEM competencies. But as they grow up, biases and inequality prevent those who identify with girlhood from getting the same opportunities boys enjoy.

A report on gender equality in STEM by UNICEF found that girls exhibit similar problem-solving, critical evaluation, and privacy skills as boys when they use computers. Students identifying as boys and girls also achieve equal minimum proficiency levels in math and science subjects at the upper primary level. Unfortunately, the reports highlight that gender biases in schools, lack of womenSTEM teachers, inadequate career guidance, and limited career role models prevent girls from realizing their potential in STEM.

As long as these barriers exist, girls will continue to be discouraged from pursuing a career in STEM. It’s time to break these limiting gender perceptions in STEM through the following strategies:

Promote staff diversity in STEM educational institutions
Educators shape the students' minds and serve as role models throughout their formative years. Unfortunately, there is a lack of diversity among teachers in schools, especially in STEM educational institutions. This inequality can contribute to the students’ perception regarding STEM participation.

A US and UK study on STEM gender stereotypes from early childhood through adolescence highlighted that children usually gain harmful stereotypes regarding STEM skills from school. In early childhood, students were more likely to say that everyone is typically good, can be good, and should be good in these subjects. Once they enter formal schooling, boys are more likely to believe in their competencies, while girls lose confidence in their STEM skills.

Having diverse teachers can be helpful in this case because they can serve as role models that girls can be good at STEM. At the same time, harmful biases are more likely to be eliminated when there are limited gender gaps among the faculty.

Discuss the career opportunities in STEM fields
Girls can miss out on career opportunities that align with their interests and competencies simply because they did not get the right guidance when choosing their college degree.

With the help of their teachers or mentors, more girls will be encouraged to enroll in higher education degrees that lead to stable and in-demand career paths. To illustrate, an assistant professor of mathematics at Bentley University explains that a math degree has long been versatile and marketable, especially in the fields of data science, finance, and the federal government.

These programs can also encourage girls to enter male-dominated programs, like computer science. Maryville University's computer science degree demonstrates how this course can help girls pursue careers as computer and information research scientists, software developers, and information security analysts. These computer science jobs have high median salaries and numerous career vacancies, making them a good option for girls who show an inclination for coding and data analysis.

Provide mentorship opportunities for girls
Girls will be more encouraged to participate in STEM if they have a mentor who can support them and point them to the right opportunities. These mentors can see girls’ potential while they’re young, and guide them through opportunities that can further hone their STEM skills and self-confidence.

Step Up’s free mentorship programs for teens and young adults ages 14-23 demonstrate the impact of mentorship on girls. The programs allow girls to build their confidence, develop their skills, and expand their community as they plan their future career paths. After participating in Step Up programs, 84% of teens report feeling more confident, including an increased ability to make choices and take action.

Exposing girls to mentorship programs can distance them from harmful stereotypes and support them in believing in their potential as future STEM leaders. They can also plan out their career paths and explore their interests in the field from a young age.

The gender gap in STEM is perpetuated by harmful stereotypes and program limitations. So if you want to encourage girls to participate in STEM, you can start by supporting Step Up's mentoring programs for girls. These programs encourage girls to explore their interests and hone their skills to find the best career paths for their future.

Nicole Simmons aspires to become a successful blogger, which is why personal development and career topics are very dear to her heart. As a woman and a mother, she hopes that her articles can help girls achieve their dreams in various career fields.

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