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 teenage 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.
Why should girls be encouraged to get into STEM?
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 design, 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 get my daughter excited about STEM?
Supporting girls’ interest and confidence in STEM is easy. Here are some things you can try:
- Talk to your daughter about the classes she is taking at school and what topics interest her. Find out if there are any teachers who are particularly supportive. Encourage her to go to them for support if she needs help with school work, and try to connect with them yourself to find out if there is anything you can do to help at home.
- Ask your daughter about what she is learning in maths and science – and get excited! Encourage her to talk about her strengths and successes and praise her for her effort.
- Talk about the way that trial and error is a vital part of STEM, and that making mistakes does not mean that you are not good at science. Encourage your daughter to keep trying if she lacks confidence or doubts herself – and tell her you believe in her.
- Talk to your daughter about how STEM is a part of everyday life, that STEM really is everywhere. Talk about the different designs and technology that you see around you. Use your daughter’s interests as a springboard for STEM learning – ask her questions, and look up the answers together.
- Ask your daughter about her plans for the future. Encourage her to explore fields of work that are not traditionally associated with women – so that she doesn’t limit her dreams.
- Help your daughter learn more about the different STEM fields that can provide exciting opportunities for her future – such as engineering and computer science – and use the internet to research women role models in those fields.
- Encourage your daughter to enrol in a hands-on afterschool or holiday STEM program – or just simply to try lots of things, explore, ask questions and find out answers!
* Margolis, Jane. Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing (2002): p 3.