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Fri July 12, 2013
Gap Watch: Gender and technology
Women fill almost half of all jobs in the United States, but they fill less than 25% of jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. How do we bridge this gap and get more women in engineering and tech fields?
Start as early as possible.
One tool to engage young girls and get them excited about STEM is a toy called Roominate. The toy, a significant deviation from the stereotypical dollhouse, is a kit for kids to build their own dollhouses including designing rooms, wiring fans and installing lights. It allows girls to express their creativity at the same time that they’re building things. Roominate’s creators, Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen, are both engineers who attribute their interest in STEM to the toys they played with as kids.
Another good first step to STEM is learning how to code. Girls Who Code is a program that offers classes, talks and workshops to teach young women the skills they need and inspire them to pursue a career in technology. Black Girls Code is another program to give girls opportunities to learn skills the tech industry needs.
Even if these girls get an early start in STEM and are comfortable with technology, it's not translating into careers in these fields. A Cornell study shows that even girls who express interest in STEM in high school might not go on to study it in college or pursue a STEM career.
Maria Klawe is a mathematician, computer scientist and president of Harvey Mudd College. After she became president, HMC instituted a program that separated its computer science program into two parts and set unexperienced students together. This change mitigated the anxiety less experienced students feel when put into a room full of people with computer experience.
Introducing girls to STEM at a young age and creating environments to help them flourish can help bridge the gender gap in STEM fields, but like all the gaps we've covered, it's persistent.
Let us know if you know of any other ways people are encouraging girls to pursue these careers.