Encouraging girls in STEM
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is everywhere – it shapes our everyday lives and is critical to jobs in the future. Find out why STEM is so important and how you can encourage an interest in STEM for your daughter.
Why is STEM important?
STEM stands for ‘Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics’ – four fields that are important in every part of our lives. Science is about our natural world—like the moon and stars, land and ocean, weather, plants and animals. Technology is about things like computers and smartphones, television, radio, and microscopes. Engineering is about the way things work – like buildings, roads and bridges, machines, and appliances. Mathematics is about numbers, shapes, and quantity. Maths is all around us, and every other STEM field depends on mathematics.
STEM are important fields for the future – jobs in these areas offer higher than average salaries, and there is high (and growing) demand for people in STEM occupations. In other words, STEM is where the good jobs are! And in today’s tech-driven, global economy, it’s important for everyone to have basic STEM knowledge.
What about girls?
STEM is fundamental to every part of our lives, but there is currently a big achievement gap between girls and boys in STEM in schools and women are vastly underrepresented in STEM jobs and among STEM degree holders.
Having half the population (women) not participating in STEM fields also limits creativity and innovation. For example, when engineers made the first generation of airbags for cars, they used adult male bodies as the basis for their designs, which resulted in avoidable deaths for women and children.* Women need to participate in STEM to make sure the experiences and needs of women are included in studies and in the design of products and services.
How can I inspire my daughter?
Supporting girls’ interest and confidence in STEM is easy. Here are some things you can try:
Scientists are professional 'question-askers', so encourage your daughter’s natural curiosity. Let her know that she doesn’t need to have all the answers or to do things the ‘right’ way. Encourage her to explore, make mistakes and discover things for herself.
Offer a STEM-friendly home
Encourage your daughter to have fun doing safe experimentation and discovery. Let her get a little messy in the kitchen and backyard while she practices predicting, measuring, observing and analysing. Borrow books and watch documentaries and TV programs about science and nature.
Follow her interests
Use your daughter’s interests as a springboard for STEM learning. For example, if she is into horses, she might like to find out how they are bred, what their nutrition needs are, how their muscles move, and how fast and far they can run.
Talk the talk
Talk to your daughter about the designs and shapes that you see around you in nature, buildings and machinery, or science stories in the news. Ask her about what she is learning in school in maths and science – and get excited! Encourage her to talk about her struggles and her successes and praise her for her effort.
Science is for everyone!
Encourage your daughter to pursue maths and science, and let her know that ‘Science is for everybody’. If she lacks confidence or doubts herself, encourage her to keep trying, tell her you believe in her, and find ways to help her if she needs it.
* Margolis, Jane. Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing (2002): p 3.