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5 Real Ways We’re Getting More Girls Interested in STEM

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

It’s no secret that women still lag behind men when it comes to the pursuit of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — the STEM fields. The good news is that there are many promising programs, projects, and even some popular TV shows that are encouraging girls to explore and experiment with STEM.

Here are just a few, in no particular order … check them out, and then maybe ask the young women in your life to check them out, too!

Girls’ Coding Clubs and Workshops

Girls Who Code,  a rapidly growing organization launched in 2012, runs computer science summer immersion programs for high school girls in more than a dozen cities — that’s some impressive geographic coverage considering that the organization’s first program began in New York! It also provides curriculum and instructor training for Girls Who Code clubs, for girls in grades six through 12.

Another tech-touting organization, Black Girls Code “has set out to prove to the world that girls of every color have the skills to become the programmers of tomorrow.” Founded in 2011, BGC has chapters across the country offer workshops on building web pages, game design, and more. Some 3,000 girls have learned various tech skills through BGC and the organization’s founder, electrical engineer Kimberly Bryant, told Marie Claire that she hopes to reach 1 million girls by 2040.

Government Programs

A variety of new government programs in recent years have sought to expose girls and young women to STEM, including a mentoring program from the Department of Energy, a partnership between the Girl Scouts and NASA, and last year’s Computer Science Heroes Film Festival (recognizing outstanding women scientists and tech pioneers) at the White House. This year’s White House Science Fair, the fifth of its kind, included more female participants than ever.

TV Shows with STEM Plotlines

Google has teamed up with Disney-ABC Television group (which shares a parent company with Babble) to create young, female TV characters who dabble in computer science. The character of Loretta in the animated space travel show Miles from Tomorrowland uses coding to discover a new planet, while the character of Mariana on the TV show The Fosters loves both cheerleading and coding, ultimately managing to conflate her two passions into what USA Today called a “show-stopping effect.”

“There are so many awesome jobs to be had in this field, and there’s no reason women shouldn’t be taking many of them,” Google software engineer Angela Navarro told the newspaper. “If that message can be put out there through entertainment, it could go a long way.”

Movie and Books Based on Real Women in Computer Science

As the director of the upcoming documentary, Born With Curiosity explains it, there have been more than a dozen films made about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, “but their legacies are built on Grace’s.” That Grace is Grace Hopper, a U.S. Navy admiral who played a giant role in the birth of computer programming. The film’s makers hope to “create the opportunity for women and girls to see themselves in Grace,” they wrote on a fundraising page for their project. It looks like they’re in great shape to make that opportunity happen — last year they exceed their crowd-funding goals by some twenty thousand dollars.

On the literary front, a new children’s mystery novel, The Case of the Missing Moonstone, features another real computer science pioneer, Ada Lovelace, as one of its main characters and includes STEM concepts in its plot.

STEM Posters Featuring Women Pioneers

Girls (and boys too) can now decorate their walls with gorgeous, educational posters of renown women scientists like Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, and more thanks to illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky. “I hope when young women see my art prints it will make them want to learn more about these amazing women and ask questions about the fields that they studied,” Ignotofsky told me a couple of months ago. More and more women are, in fact, seeing Ignotofsky’s work. She recently emailed me to report that she’s getting great feedback from scientists, doctors, parents and students. She was even featured on Instagram on International Women’s Day.

“Moms and Dads are realizing that the best tool to give a young girl is your own expectations that she will be independent, intelligent and successful,” she said. “It has really been a dream come true to hear that people are reacting to my illustrations as I hoped they would.”

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