We have all read the statistics about the gender gap in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in tech companies. And if I were to say the word web developer or coder, you might automatically think of a man sitting behind a computer as opposed to a woman.
The numbers don’t lie, in the workplace, women make up half of the college educated workforce, but hold less than 30% of the jobs in science and engineering. If we analyze the data further by ethnic group, the numbers are even more disparate– “Minority women comprise fewer than 1 in 10 employed scientists and engineers”. Tech jobs are among the fastest growing in the US economy, but women are somehow not equally present in these fields?? How does that happen? How does it make sense?
How does this gap come about? The journal Science recently produced a study that shows that girls as young as 6 years old don’t believe that someone of their own gender is really really smart. This study may suggest that efforts to encourage and motivate girls about their intellectual abilities is something that parents, caretakers, and members of the village need to tackle deliberately. We need to actively point girls towards and pique their interest in science, engineering, and math. What has been happening though is quite the opposite. Some women have suggested that academic profiling has kept them from pursuing advanced science and math courses in schools. Many have said that educators told them they did not belong in advanced math or science courses because the content would not be easy. This is a startling message to send to young women—if we make assumptions about who belongs in advanced math and science courses, aren’t we also making assumptions about who can become a professional in a STEM field?
I recently saw the movie, Hidden Figures which recounts the story of Katherine Johnson’s extraordinary ability in math and ultimately the calculations that would land Neil Armstrong on the moon. Her contributions to the historical voyage to the moon would not have been possible were it not for her own curiosity and I’m sure the support and nurturing of her curiosity by her parents and teachers.
The film reveals Johnson and other African-American women’s ability to fight against sexism and racism in their country and the workplace to make strong contributions to society. And almost 50 years after Johnson helped Armstrong land on the moon, women are still working hard to gain their footing in STEM fields.
I have an 8 year old niece that is in love with learning and has already told me that she wants to be a singer and dancer. And I want her to excel at whatever she chooses to do. However, a part of me wants to at least try to cultivate some interest in science and math in her. In my search to inspire her as well as inform myself, I’ve learned that there are several STEM camps and resources specifically intended to encourage, teach, and create a network for young girls.
There are quite a few programs that cater to little girls and nurturing their talents and interest in science and math. It’s a little early to be thinking about summer camps and programs, but this gives you a head start and an opportunity to determine which program is best for your daughter.
This program was started in 2012 by Reshma Saujani to close the gender gap in technology. Over 10,000 girls in 42 states have gone through this program and several tech companies like Google, Facebook host chapters at their company headquarters.
Girls Who Code has 2 programs – an after school program for girls from 6th-12th grade. The after school program is hosted at local schools throughout the school year. To learn more about clubs in your area, click here.
The second program is a Summer Immersion program for 10th and 11th grade girls. The Summer Immersion Program is a free 7 week program in several US cities. Click here for the application.
Application deadline: March 17th
The Girls Who Code program boasts that 65% of their club participants are considering a degree in Computer Science, a direct result of their involvement in the program. And that number increases to 93% for those that participate in the Summer Immersion Program.
In 2007, the Battelle Memorial Institute gave the National Society of Black Engineers a founding grant that enabled them to launch the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) program.
SEEK is a 3 week program for 3rd through 12th grade, designed to expose African American students to STEM courses. NSBE’s SEEK program curriculum exposes students to projects in the areas of Solar Car, Wind Turbine, Fuel Cell, and Fragrance, among others. NSBE can boast that students attending their program experienced significant growth in their vocabulary related to engineering and 80% of the students in the program expressed a greater interest in engineering.
SEEK is a co-ed day program, but they do have 2 all-girls sessions this coming summer in Atlanta, GA and Jackson, MS. For more information about SEEK, click here. Hurry, registration has already started for this competitive program.
Founded in the heart of Silicon Valley, iDTech has been empowering, teaching, and encouraging future coders, game designers, and engineers since 1999. While iDTech is a co-ed summer camp program, Alexa Café was founded to cater to specific needs of young girls ages 10-15.
The Alexa Café track offers courses in coding, animation modeling, and cybersecurity. In this program, each course has no more than an 8:1 ratio of students to instructor. Parents have the option of enrolling their daughter in the day camp option or the overnight camp option. To learn more about iDTech – Alexa Café, click here.
Techbridge’s mission is to inspire girls to learn about and love science, technology, engineering, and math through hands-on learning, to empower the next generation of innovators and technology leaders. The great thing about Techbridge is that while they are focused on providing support to girls as they reach for STEM careers, they also work with families and teachers providing resources that can be used for research opportunities, discussion prompts for conversations with girls, and role model training.
Currently Techbridge’s afterschool programs are offered in Washington DC, Seattle, WA, Oakland, CA, and San Jose, CA. This program has touched more than 600 girls in the 30 schools it supports with educational projects focused on real-world applications.
Techbridge’s summer program is open to girls who have participated in the afterschool program. If you are in one of these areas and would like more information on their programs, click here.
If your little princess is too young for these programs, please look into these toys and begin to spark her interest now!
For your pre-school girl Fisher-Price has designed the Think and Learn Code-a-pillar. She will learn some entry-level programming by arranging the Code-a-Pillar parts in the correct order to get him moving. Ages 3 and above.
Roominate – think of it as Legos for girls but with circuits and motors that light up the houses and objects they build. Roominate was created by 2 girlfriends in the master’s engineering program at Stanford and was featured on Shark Tank. Ages 6 to 12.
What do you think about STEM programs for young women? Should girls organically cultivate an interest in whatever they want? Why is it a good idea to introduce young girls to careers in STEM?