How do you get girls to love STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math? And why does this matter? Because according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there will be nine million new well-paying jobs for people in science and technology by the time our girls are adults, and helping them develop an early love of science and engineering will give them the confidence to stick with STEM when they’re adults.
So how can we support young women and encourage them to go into STEM fields? Start now, before your girl enters kindergarten! There’s substantial evidence that early exposure to STEM directly impacts the number of women who later go into STEM fields. Here’s how you can do it.
It Starts With Exposure: Flash ‘Em Some Science
It’s hard to believe in this day and age that we still need to actively work to simply normalize the idea of women working in STEM. When you see someone doing scientific experiments in media, it’s nearly always a man. So seek out media and stories about women working in STEM, and when your daughter sees a woman working in a STEM field — like her pediatrician, perhaps? — call it to her attention. This will help her fight against the other images and messages she gets that tell her STEM is only for boys.
It also helps to have great tools, toys, and ideas that will both delight and fascinate your preschoolers. Luckily there’s plenty out there, even for little girls.
There are so many great simple exercises that will thrill your daughter. From the simple — mixing vinegar and baking soda, for instance — to the more complicated. You’ll find some great ideas here from Go Science Girls! My daughter loved changing the colors of the flowers and tracing the veins of leaves (a perfect mother and daughter bonding sesh for Fall I might add).
When you want to get little girls excited about STEM, start with LEGO Juniors. LEGO Juniors are ideal for four and five years olds thanks to the quick-start pieces and super simple instructions. Plus they help girls with a specific development step — structured play using 3D objects to recreate something that has a blueprint. This makes girls analyze the project and see that the parts equal the whole — and figure out how the parts work together. This encourages quantitative thinking, a skill every engineer needs.
We’ll bet your local maker space, community center, and library is offering some excellent STEM programming. Libraries in particular are leading the charge in offering programs that focus on technology, from robot building to programming to movie-making. While the Pre-K set don’t always make the best team members, it’s a brilliant idea to start ‘em young in group STEM activities anyway.
Hopefully, by the time our little girls are grown up, we’ll live in a world where both women and men contribute equally to science and technology. Imagine, if you will, a world where all genders collaborate to fix the problems of the world using science, technology and math. I’ve imagined it and that world looks awesome.