Stamford, Conneticut middle school girls will participate in a STEM summer school this year, an initiative that aims to expose girls to science and technology fields and their vast career opportunities for women. At the same time, a postdoctoral student in collaboration with University of Florida’s WiSE program is running a five-day STEM campus for young girls — and they’re two of many similar efforts across the US.
About thirty girls from Stamford schools will get a chance to interact with academic leaders, initiate mentoring relationships with successful women and explore STEM activities during GE Girls at UCONN, a week-long STEM program.
The five-day program takes place from July 20 to 24 and is sponsored by the GE Women’s Network of GE Corporate and GE Capital and developed is in collaboration with the University of Connecticut.
66% of fourth grade girls say they enjoy science and math, yet only 18% of engineering graduates are women. Recent figures reveal that young girls are not receiving adequate encouragement to pursue a STEM career and are unaware of its potential or their own ability to pursue a traditionally male-dominated career.
“We are thankful for the opportunity to expose our middle school girls to a rich and engaging STEM experience,” Dolan Middle School 7th grade teacher Brian Ruckdeschel said . “The goal is not only to build short-term STEM interest, but also to have a long-term impact on future choices for women in STEM education and career opportunities.”
The girls participating in the program will build a solar oven, learn the chemistry behind ice cream and lip gloss making and get hands-on experience on computer programming.
STEM leader Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson says that exposing a young girl to science and technology at an early age increases the chances of that girl pursuing a career in a related field later on.
Stanford University’s Vivek Wadhwa says the role of parents shouldn’t be overlooked, either:
“It starts with childhood. Girls have to be encouraged by their parents to take an interest in STEM fields.” GoldieBlox CEO Debbie Sterling argues that society needs to:
“Introduce girls to STEM at an early age through toys and media that make it fun and accessible.”
Postdoctoral student Charlotte Germain-Aubrey has created her own STEM program for young girls. The young scientist believes she would have become a scientist much sooner herself had she been exposed to the right conditions earlier.
Germain-Aubrey has developed a five-day STEM camp for fifth- and sixth-grade girls called the WiSE Girlz Camp. The camp was developed in collaboration with the University of Florida’s Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) program.
With several University of Florida academics agreeing to volunteer their time, enrollment cost was kept low at $50 per student. In March, eleven students attended the camp, among them Charlotte Trabbic, a thirteen year old girl amazed with the potential of science to help people:
“It’s so cool cause you can help someone by doing something you love,” Charlotte said.
The majority of the girls participating in the STEM camp said they want to be engineers and computer scientists.
The National Girls Collaborative Project is another initiative encouraging young girls to pursue STEM careers. NGCP supports young girls who want to become STEM professionals and recommends to them STEM projects available in their areas.
According to United States Census Bureau figures, women made up just 26% of the total STEM workforce in 2011.