When I was young, if someone had told me I would be working with math every day in my career, I would have laughed. I’ve never felt confident with numbers, and always seem to get the same type of response: “That’s okay, girls aren’t high achievers in math and science. They’re good at language arts and social studies.” This stereotype may be why many young girls don’t pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects in school.
Is that line of thinking true? According to research by the Girl Scout Research Institute, high school girls and boys perform equally well in math and science. It’s only when girls are made aware of this stereotype that they begin to perform much more poorly than boys - when they are told boys and girls perform equally well on a test, there is no difference in score. Could girls be talking themselves out of their ability to learn math and science?
Women are underrepresented in STEM fields. Although the majority of college graduates (57%) and master’s level graduates (60%) are women, in STEM fields, women only account for 20% of bachelor’s degrees in engineering, computer science and physics. In all the areas of STEM, only about 25% of these positions are held by women (girlscouts.org*).
Expanding your Horizons (EYH) is an organization that aims to change that. I have been involved in EYH conferences in both Thurston and Lewis Counties, and enjoyed the experiences immensely. When you get 200-300 middle school girls together with female mentors who work in STEM fields, something powerful happens. The young girls get to explore all kinds of fascinating subjects from rescuing birds, to where asteroids come from, to what slime and rubber have in common. This year, I’ll be teaching “Creating a Budget” and “Careers in the Finance Industry.” (I doubt they will let me do any experiments with test tubes, but you never know!)
Through this event, students meet successful women in these fields. The opportunity they have to realize how other women are paving the way is invaluable. Never doubt the power of the thought, “I can do this!”
Expand Your Horizons Thurston County will meet on Saturday, March 11 at SPSCC. If you have a middle school girl who might be interested, or if you would be interested in volunteering, check out the organization’s website for more information: www.thurstoneyh.org.
Article by Amanda Stevens, TwinStar Credit Union Community Development Manager.