Introducing STEM to Girls at An Early Age is Vital to Closing the Gender Gap

The facts are that women make up less than 20 percent of U.S. tech jobs, even though they make up more than half of the U.S. workforce, according to data compiled by virtual event solutions company, Evia. Unfortunately, women now hold a lower share of computer science jobs than they did in the 1980s. In order to improve the gender diversity, individuals and organizations around the world are looking to introduce female students to STEM earlier and find ways to keep them interested.

Kraig Brown, partnership and development manager at Digital Xtra Fund, said:
It is essential we inspire more girls to get into tech from primary school, leading to increased uptake in secondary and therefore more women completing Higher and Further Education with a variety of technology related qualifications. Only by focusing on the talent pipeline from the beginning can we make a tangible difference in the end."

Some of the recent initiatives that are looking to curb this problem are:

  Girl Scouts Launches $70 Million STEM Initiative

The initiative was announced at the annual Salesforce conference in San Francisco, where GSUSA also was revealed as the company's trailblazing "nonprofit of choice" for its efforts in STEM education and to transform the lives of girls across the country. "Girl Scouts has the largest pipeline of future female leaders available, and no place is this more important than in STEM fields," said GSUSA chief executive Sylvia Acevedo. Help the pledge to join the initiative.

  Steph & Ayesha Curry's STEM Scholarship Program for Girls

The couple's foundation will give $30K to a college-bound girl interested in STEM. Inspired by a nine year-old Riley Morrison, who had the courage to speak out against gender inequality, The Stephen & Ayesha Curry Family Foundation is funding an annual scholarship that’s given to a college-bound female student from the Bay Area who has shown an aptitude for overcoming adversity, catalyzing change within her community and demonstrating excellence in a STEM-related field of study. Steph collaborated with Morrison for the design of his latest sneaker, the Curry 6 United We Win, released on International Women's Day. The profits from the shoe will help fund the scholarship program.

  Phablabs 4.0

Staged in ten countries across Europe, a total of 1221 girls have attended the Phablabs 4.0 initiatives since last year. The workshops have created novel and innovative problems for students to solve using lasers and photonics, the technology around the emission, manipulation and detection of light. Students have been exploring tasks as varied as creating an artwork made from lasers, modifying a cuddly toy with photonics, or building an infrared glove that acts as a remote control where touching two fingers creates a signal.

One of the results of the PhabLabs 4.0 project has been the publication of a new booklet, A Gender Balanced Approach. The booklet acts as a guide to future Fabrication Laboratories so that organizers in schools or universities can use it as a reference to gain the interest of girls and young women in science and technology.

  LifeJourney International

This American owned organization has launched its Women in STEM initiative, aiming to spark an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in young women in year seven through to university in Australia. One of their focuses is to provide more female role models to young females including sharing the stories of female leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube), Ginni Rometty (CEO at IBM), and Meg Whitman (CEO of Hewlett-Packard) and to debunk the myths regarding why women are less interested in a career in STEM.

Myth 1: From the time they start school, most girls are less interested in science than boys are.
Myth 2: Classroom interventions that work to increase girls' interest in STEM run the risk of turning off the boys.
Myth 3: Science and math teachers are no longer biased toward their male students.

Each of these myths have been proven to be false. The one possibly doing the most damage is when teachers fail to encourage young female students to acquire more knowledge in science and math to obtain employment in those fields after graduating. More organizations are finding ways to discuss and brainstorm ideas on how to focus more on positive outcomes and spark curiosity, inside and outside the classroom.

"For example, research has shown that girls are more likely to engage with STEM subjects when there is an obvious benefit to society or their communities which is why we see a higher proportion of women in non-profits and medicine than in other areas of science and technology."

The Women in Science, Health and Innovation: Leadership Looking to the Future conference in Vancouver, gathered women scientists from Europe, Canada and the United States, at the occasion of the International Women’s Day on March 8th. This was an opportunity to share and discuss women’s place in science and in the world of research, and to put forward solutions for gender equality.

The problem of gender disparity in STEM careers has not been solved but by speaking about the issue publicly and having the conversation, many different individuals are coming together to assist women land more opportunities.