Girl Scouts studying light to earn a STEM badge.

There has been a lot of talk lately about STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education, and especially about getting girls more interested in those subjects. But what is actually being done to inspire girls to get into science and to close the gap between women and men employed in STEM careers? As someone who loved science as a little girl and decided to become a biology teacher, I wanted to find out why girls do not love science and what is being done to help.

We have all heard the statistics saying things like only 12% of engineers are women in the U.S. and the number of women earning degrees in science is declining. Studies show that girls think they are not good at science because of stereotypes that keep telling them that. Besides thinking they will not be good at science, some girls just are not interested in learning about STEM topics.

Programs are popping up all over with science activities for girls. Examples include Girls Inc., camps offered by For Girls in Science, or the Girls in Science program that I participated in during middle school. I spent those Thursday afternoons at my local planetarium with a great group of educators and my peers learning about everything from food safety and gardening, to architecture and genetics. I still use ideas from those activities today! I recently ran into the leader of Girls in Science and we chatted about the program. We talked about how much fun us girls had over the years and what other participants are up to now. We also discussed what happened with the program after I graduated from the group. Eventually, it was turned into an afterschool science program for both boys and girls. Well, maybe the no-boys-allowed rule was what made the program special for the girls. Sadly, after becoming coed, the program ended. I think that this situation shows that maybe girls would enjoy science more if they feel ownership of their scientific knowledge and do not have to compete with the boys.

It is great to have an innate interest in science, but even girls who do not start out with a love for it might just find a passion for something science-y if they are given the chance to own it. Let’s all make a better effort to encourage girls and support programs that give them opportunities to thrive in STEM education.

-Hillary Hanel
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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