Engaging young women in STEM
Multiple national and international studies on gender differences in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) continue to report that girls self-select out of higher-level math and science courses, such as chemistry, physics and calculus, thus reducing their chances to pursue STEM-related careers. The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement finds that girls increasingly underperform on exams testing mathematical and science ability after fourth grade and throughout high school.
This year we have been collaborating with local Silver Spring non-profit Community Bridges to provide multiple hands-on opportunities to help girls and young women develop more positive attitudes about STEM, and to help them navigate their way through school and be prepared to choose any career including STEM.
Why this is important
The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that while women fill close to half of all jobs in the United States, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. This is a critical issue for several reasons:
– STEM related jobs tend to be higher paying than non-STEM related jobs.
– Women with STEM jobs earned 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs
– Bringing young girls into the future STEM workforce is not just about gender equality — it’s also about building a strong U.S. economy and tapping into a potentially huge source of undeveloped, world-class talent.
– To compete in the global marketplace companies need to build teams with a diversity of analytical and emotional skills. It is imperative that women have their viewpoints and capabilities represented in the workplace.
How we make a difference
Through the generosity of our local supporters were able to offer scholarships to two young women from Community Bridges to our Architects’ Club for Girls summer camp in August, where they engaged in building and decorating a model house with the other young women attending. The camp was a blast, everyone got to engage in learning, thinking and talking about architecture, then getting hands-on with planning, painting, constructing, laser cutting, 3D printing, modeling, making furniture and decorating the house. The young women were motivated throughout by the aim that the house would be donated to a local shelter for victims of domestic violence, and in October we completed the donation of the house to Family Services Inc, a non-profit, in Gaithersburg.
To us, the whole project is what the maker movement is all about: learning new skills, getting to practice them, having fun, and along the way benefiting others. The most important part, though, is that the project empowered a group of young women to come together and engage with STEM in a way that was meaningful to them.
Catylator and Community Bridges are planning more collaborative events throughout the remainder of 2016 and into 2017. If you would like to help support programs for engaging young women in STEM, then please get in touch and we can discuss how you can make a difference.