Eight organizations promote women in STEM
By now, it’s common knowledge that women are underrepresented in STEM. Below are some of the organizations that decided to do something about it, each taking a different approach.
1. Brainy Girls
About 15 years ago, Marci Koski noticed a void in the media: there was no learning magazine for girls.
“I just thought that the disparity between what was available for boys versus what was available for girls left a really bad message in terms of acceptance of girls using their brains, and that it’s okay to be smart,” she said. “The message is that smart is not sexy.”
Wanting to change that message, Koski started Brainy Girls, an online magazine that has a different theme each issue. Koski didn’t want her magazine to lament the lack of women in STEM because she knew girls were already hearing that message. Instead, Koski used her science background– she’s a fish biologist by trade– to create a publication about current science topics and women with interesting STEM careers.
The Harpeth Hall School started the center to provide girls with STEM education opportunities and resources for STEM teachers. This website provides links to a database of STEM summer opportunities for students and resources for STEM teachers to use in their classrooms.
The center’s STEM Summer Institute for high school girls takes a unique approach to STEM education. Partnering with the Lwala Community Alliance, the participants combine all of the STEM disciplines to help solve a problem in a Kenyan community. Last summer, the girls redesigned hand-washing stations used in Lwala’s girls’ schools.
The center will hold a STEM Think Tank and Conference July 17 through 19. The topic is Girl Meets STEM: Developing the Next Generation of Professionals. The conference will address how community organizations can help girls get interested in STEM and discuss most effective STEM teaching techniques.
Danica McKellar holds a degree in mathematics from UCLA and even co-authored a mathematical physics theorem named after her and her co-authors. She also works as an actress. McKellar used her unique career pairings to show girls ‘smart is sexy.’ McKellar wrote books for geometry, pre-algebra and algebra students to promote a different, fun way of learning math.
4. Women @ NASA
Watch videos and read inspiring essays from female NASA employees that explain the path they took to their STEM job and outlines their work at NASA.
The website also connects users to many STEM education programs targeted toward girls. One opportunity is Change the World through STEM, a mentoring program that connects NASA employees with middle school students through Skype or Google Chat. Or, in other words, a budding scientist’s dream.
Engineer Girl works to educate girls about engineering in a personal way. Through interviews from real engineers, girls can understand the specific duties of the profession. Another resource on the website breaks down the different types of engineering and the skills needed to work in these fields.
The resources on the Engineer Girl website helps girls bridge the gap from having an interest in engineering to getting involved in engineering opportunities and knowing what type of engineering to pursue. This focused interest not only sparks an interest in engineering, but also increases the likelihood of students turning a childhood interest in engineering into a career.
Girls Who Code works to end the disparity between men and women in technology and computer science positions.
Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, said, “Computer science is the one place we’re actually seeing a decline in women entering the field, and that all studies show that if you don’t take computer science by the time you’re in high school you’re just not going to take it in college.”
To change this fact, the organization offers an eight-week program to expose girls to this crucial skill set. Saujani said knowing how to code makes a person more competitive in the job market because it can be important in any field and not just a typical technology job. She mentioned that one of their students created an algorithm that identifies whether a cancer is benign or malignant. Her newfound coding skills are clearly useful in her pursuit of a medical degree.
Saujani said, “Girls who code is a movement. In many ways we are trying to put ourselves out of business…”
The National Girls Collaborative Project created FabFems as a one-stop shop for women in STEM careers. This national database compiles names and contact information of role models, or women who want to offer education and STEM career advice.
Nimisha Ghosh Roy, the project manager, said that FabFems connects girls who might not have a STEM role model in their lives with a professional that can show them why these careers are attainable and rewarding.
Teachers can browse FabFems to find STEM guest speakers or field trip opportunities in their area. An interactive visit to a lab is an effective way to get students interested in science. Roy said the website also works as a networking tool for STEM professionals. A group of STEM role models in California met through FabFems and teamed up to volunteer with the Girl Scouts. It’s simple to sign up as a role model, and the time commitment is completely flexible.
The Bug Chicks are two entomologists out to demystify insects. Kristie Reddick and Jessica Honaker produce hilarious educational videos, usually involving costumes, to explain different bug functions such as pollination. They also hold interactive programs where students can touch spiders and other bugs to prove bugs aren’t creepy.
In August, Reddick and Honaker will kick off their new show, which will beavailable on YouTube, Project Noah’s blog and NPR’s Science Friday. Tune in to watch the scientists travel across the country to study spiders and insects in different ecosystems.