Want More Women in Science? Start Early and Listen to Girls
THE SUCCESS OF EVERY WOMAN SHOULD BE IN THE INSPIRATION TO ANOTHER.
WE SHOULD RAISE EACH OTHER UP.
MAKE SURE YOU'RE COURAGEOUS:
BE STRONG, BE EXTREMELY KIND, AND ABOVE ALL BE HUMBLE.
Research on gender stereotypes show that science is not only associated with a male person, but that masculine traits are also attributed to it. Although young children do not have a profound knowledge about STEM subjects, they attribute masculine traits to science at an early age. In the same vein, children as early as second grade perceive math as a male domain. The male stereotype of science and of a scientist is persistent throughout the school years, starting as early as kindergarten. And that is exactly where educators and parents need to start their work as a balancing act of the stereotypic beliefs about STEM.
For decades, researchers have told us the 'Girls and women are systematically tracked away from science and math throughout their schooling career, limiting their training and options to go into these fields as adults'.
The latest stats from Motsepe Foundation show that while girls have made significant progress in many key academic disciplines such as medicine, law, finance, business, management, humanities and social sciences, in the STEM field girls are behind in both interest and enrolment. In terms of new South African university graduates, only 13% of STEM graduates are women.
The challenges is how early do educators and parents need to start with girls in order to eliminate gender gap. As early as toddlerhood!
Grade 8 student Sriya decided to take on this challenge. According to Sriya, "When the coronavirus pandemic shut down my school, I found myself stuck at home with nothing to do but my smart gadgets as my companions. Luckily, as a 14-year old STEM aficionado and introvert, that was all I needed. I found the large amounts of time on my hands to be the perfect opportunity to meet my goal of working to close the gender gap in STEM". Sriya is the founder of #GirlsWhoSTEAM, an online community for girls in STEM. This past month, GirlsWhoSTEAM held a virtual conference focused on introducing high school girls to STEM professionals - 1000 girls participated. The online workshops are great and the girls' network even greater. I encourage all my girls students to join in, share in the STEM experiences and get inspired to choose STEM subjects and commit to the ever-so-hard but deeply satisfying path of Science!