STEM Implications and Recommendations for Future Work
Exposure and education—both formal and informal—will likely help send the message that STEM careers can help fulfill the desire to solve problems in the world and make the world a better place. Support and encouragement for STEM interest from adults, including parents, teachers, relatives, and mentors, is the key to encouraging girls to get involved.
Paying attention to and fostering girls’ emotional strength, just as much as their formal education and training in important subjects like math and science, is critical. At a time when jobs are hard to find and higher education is necessary, it is more important than ever to show girls that STEM skills can be the key to their future. As part of STEM advocacy efforts, Video Game Palooza is making efforts to promote STEM solutions for girls at legislative hearings, briefings, community forums, and with the media in an effort to expose this important topic with community leaders and public officials at all levels.
The following is a list of recommendations for educators, parents, and supportive adults who work with with girls in our programs to support girls in their journey to success within the program.
1. Encourage young girls to ask questions about the world, problem solve, and use natural creativity. This inquisitiveness can lead to innovative work in the future. It is important to continue this growth in developmentally appropriate ways throughout childhood and adolescence—the phase where typically STEM interest can drop.
2. Foster girls’ internal assets such as confidence, self-esteem, initiative, and a work ethic. This can make girls feel successful and capable when it comes to interest in STEM fields—and anything else they set their minds to do. When girls feel capable and confident in their abilities, they will be more likely to challenge themselves and obstacles along the way to success.
3. Introduce girls to people who have careers in STEM, so they can observe firsthand what these careers are, and what they can offer. Girls can see the kinds of people who are in these careers, and begin to develop relationships with them. Girls can recognize how women in these fields have succeeded and overcome obstacles.
4. Keep girls interested and engaged in STEM over time and beyond transition points. While past research shows that girls’ interest in STEM drops in middle school, this study points out another transition point—that girls’ interest in STEM may be challenged by competing opportunities and interests as girls move from high school to college years and beyond. Providing college and career counseling for teen girls is important in bridging STEM interest in high school to a STEM major in college, eventually leading to a STEM career. Many high school girls say they are interested in STEM subjects and careers, but a much lower percentage say that a STEM career is their number one choice.
5. Support and encourage STEM interests. When supportive adults, such as parents, relatives, teachers, and mentors show an interest in STEM careers for girls, they make those fields seem much more realistic and feasible, rather than something untouchable or unreachable.
6. Show girls that what they want out of their careers can be achieved through STEM. Showing girls that they can change the world and help people through STEM, while also making a good salary, will help make STEM more of a priority for girls as they begin to think about and narrow down their college majors and career choices. Girls need more exposure to and understanding of what STEM careers entail to see that some of their interests—such as designing technologies, asking questions, and solving problem,s are the at the foundation of many STEM professions.
7. Many girls prefer working in groups and collaborating with others to solve problems. The perception is that the natural work culture of STEM professions tends to be isolating rather than inclusive. The work culture/environment (or the perception thereof) needs to be more people and team oriented in order for some girls to find it appealing.
8. Steer clear of obvious or subtle stereotypes about girls’ and women’s abilities in math science. It is easy for girls to form attitudes about what girls and women should or should not be good at. Instead, model positive, more up-to-date words of encouragement that speaks to our generation of girls, telling them that they can become a STEM expert.
9. Foster interest for girls of all cultures. African American and Hispanic girls have just as much interest in STEM as Caucasian girls, yet they have had less exposure to STEM, lower academic achievement, and less adult support. Understanding these differences can help shape programming to the specific needs of targeted racial and ethnic populations of girls.
10. Use this research to create awareness and advocate for girls to be engaged in STEM opportunities. Become part of the conversation to get more girls involved and interested in STEM in order to improve their chances of engaging in a STEM career to make STEM careers more accepting of women.
Working together with our business partners, donors, students, parents, legislators, and industry leaders, we will help make a compelling future for generations of young people for many years to come.