June 23rd marks National Women in Engineering Day, a day reserved for celebrating women in these fields. While we are excited to do so, it also means we are celebrating only about 24% of the workforce in STEM fields. It’s no secret that there is a gender gap in most fields relating to science and technology, which is why the time has come to focus on fostering female interest. Here are five tips to consider in order to encourage the female youth in your life to pursue courses and careers in technology fields.
1. Start cultivating an interest at a young age. National organizations such as Girl Scouts and Girls Who Code have been putting more effort into exposing young girls to the benefits of pursuing a STEM career. Schools nationwide are developing extracurricular activities geared toward this, so it’s important to research available programs in your area.
2. Encourage curiosity. Children naturally ask a lot of questions which makes it easy to create a game out of finding the answer together. Encourage this curiosity by making a pulley system for her room or a tree house, take some leaves and put them under a microscope, or have her help you put a piece of furniture together. No matter how you introduce her to finding entertaining ways to problem solve, let her take charge and explore.
3. Don’t separate the tomboys and girly girls. Young girls often receive the message that they can either be one or the other but not both. To avoid this, inspire a young “girly girl” who is in love with makeup to pursue a degree in chemistry the same way you would encourage a “tomboy” that loves being outside to join a career in architectural sustainability.
4. Embrace screen-time. While it is important to monitor the amount of time kids spend on the computer, it can also be a great educational tool. Video games such as Minecraft don’t focus on defeating the bad guy and saving a damsel in distress. Instead, it’s a world where players create structures, machines, and environments in order to live. Women are receiving 57% of bachelor’s degrees, but only 12% were in computer science. The ability to create Minecraft mods could also spark an interest in coding which could lead to practicing a skill that is realistic and useful in a future career.
5. Identify a trusted mentor. Expose them to women in the field who can serve as successful examples. Providing young girls interested in the tech world with a mentor is invaluable since it will build their confidence and teach leadership skills.
Is your daughter or a young girl in your life interested in a STEM career? Let us know what you do to encourage her interests.