Do you know how some say it’s a man’s world? Well, when it comes to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, where women make up less than a quarter of the workforce, that’s still the case. And considering roughly 80 percent of mid-level jobs—including jobs that don’t require a college degree—involve STEM skills, we need to catch girls up, quickly.
What can you do about it? Raise your daughter to be a STEMinist!
What does it mean to be a STEMinist, though? “Not every girl is going to want to pursue a career in STEM, and it’s important to encourage her to follow her own passions,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, “but every girl should be encouraged to try her hand at STEM skills, get comfortable with those concepts, and learn how they apply to all kinds of surprising fields—from fashion to finance, and beyond.”
Not sure how to get her started on a STEMinist track? Follow these three steps.
- Set the right tone at home
It’s important to remember that kids’ ideas about the world and themselves often come straight from their immediate family’s words and actions. If your girl hears her mom or other female family members complaining that they’ve “never been good at math” while dad or another male family member takes on all tech projects in the house—from hooking up the latest gaming system to setting up the Wi-Fi password—it’s likely that she’ll start to think STEM skills are for boys and not for her. One way around this (that works even for parents who don’t feel confident in their own math or science skills) is to look at STEM as an area you can explore alongside your girl. If you’re just starting to learn about these subjects, that’s fine! Simply showing enthusiasm and partnership in her STEM journey will both jumpstart her learning and give you another fun bonding experience. Plus? You might just learn a thing or two in the process.
- Give her some strong STEMinists to look up to
Think about the books your daughter reads and the movies she watches. What roles do girls and women play? If they have jobs, what kind of work do they do? When there are scientists, builders, or tech geniuses featured in a story, do they tend to be male or female? From kid-friendly books about astronaut Mae Jemison and architect Zaha Hadid to inspiring documentaries about primatologist Jane Goodall and computer scientist Grace Hopper, there are tons of wonderful books, movies, and online videos featuring amazing women in STEM. Ask your local librarian if you need help finding them, and diversify her role models, STAT.
- Find the STEM side of her interests
She says she wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up? That’s incredible. Talk to her about the important roles precise measurements (math!) and design (engineering!) take in that field. Her dream is to open a bakery one day? Fantastic. Chemistry is behind all her favorite recipes—so encourage her to pay attention in class! And if she’s an avid gamer? Suggest she start programming the next blockbuster (and money-making!) sensation. Chances are she’s already interested in STEM and doesn’t even realize it. Add to her list of female STEM role models by looking up women in her preferred fields who use STEM skills every day but who aren’t “obviously” scientists. You might be surprised by all the places she can find STEMinist inspiration!