How can we support girls to pursue careers in STEM?

In celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science (Monday 11 February), we’ve looked at what can be done to encourage girls to explore their STEM capabilities. 

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) has always been a key source of innovation in our world, and as we move deeper into the digital age it’s become increasingly important. STEM careers are predicted to be among some of the most in-demand professions in the future, creating jobs for the next generation of eager scientists and technologists. While there’s a shortage of STEM workers in general, the lack of female workers and students in this field is even more prominent. 

The United Nations established the International Day of Women and Girls in Science to promote gender diversity in an area where less than 16 per cent of graduates are female and less than 30 per cent of scientific and technological researchers are women. While the reasons for this distinct gap can be attributed far and wide, there are some ways that we can encourage girls to become the future women in science. You never know – a ground breaking discovery could be resting in the hands of a girl who feels like she does not have the opportunity or capability to follow a career in STEM. 

Exposure

Whether it is their dream to become an astronaut or they’re simply curious about maths and science, it is important to expose girls to STEM as early as possible. This could involve seeking out career path advice if you have a natural scientist on your hands, or exploring STEM workshops and competitions that will foster her curiosity. Seeing and hearing from female role models in STEM can spark interest and confirm capability among girls – knowing that other girls have grown up to work in their desired career is a huge confidence booster. 

Engagement 

Getting involved in STEM activities is a great way to promote female participation in this field. Many schools have established dedicated STEM programs in recent years, giving all students access to maths and science related projects. If your daughter wants to further develop her interest in all things science, there are a range of companies and organisations that run specialist workshops. From coding camps to ‘build your own drone’ competitions, there are plenty of programs available for girls to explore their STEM interests. 

Encouragement

Stereotypes around science careers can often hold girls back when it comes to exploring their own STEM path. Maths and science have long been painted as nerdy and boring subjects, while myths around STEM being a male-only field often prevent girls from considering a scientific career. Encouraging young women to explore their potential in all areas dispels these stereotypes and inspires girls to embrace their passion and interest in STEM. Encourage them to ask questions and if they cannot be answered, it gives girls great opportunity to foster their natural curiosity and problem solving skills. Giving young women that little push to go and explore STEM lets them know that it is normal to be interested in maths and science, while encouraging girls to consider a career path they had previously found unattainable. 

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