Early Introduction Can Encourage More Women to Join STEM Fields

Maybe you recall the Verizon commercial that follows a young girl as she’s growing up.  Samantha takes a keen interest in activities like wading in a stream and building a rocket ship; activities that explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Yet she’s discouraged from pursuing those interests by the folks around her with comments like “Why don’t you hand that to your brother” or “Don’t get your dress dirty.” It concludes with a thoughtful question: Isn’t it time we told her she’s pretty brilliant, too?

Not only does the commercial tug at your heart strings but it ends with an alarming statistic that 66 percent of fourth-grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18 percent of all college engineering majors are female.

Not long ago, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Women in Business surveyed STEM leaders from around the country about what can be done to attract, retain, and advance more women and girls to STEM education and careers.

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson said, “Sparking a girl’s interest in STEM at an early age significantly increases the odds that she will pursue a STEM career.”

Stanford University’s Vivek Wadhwa agreed that “It starts with childhood. Girls have to be encouraged by their parents to take an interest in STEM fields.”

GoldieBlox’s CEO Debbie Sterling says to “Introduce girls to STEM at an early age through toys and media that make it fun and accessible.”

Girls Who Code Founder Reshma Saujani thinks we need to “Make technology cool for girls.”

Lockheed Martin, Georgetown University and BSA | The Software Alliance did just that as they joined forces to sponsor the inaugural Washington, D.C., Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program. They brought together 60 young women from the region for seven weeks of intensive instruction in computing skills, ranging from mobile app development to web design to robotics.

If you know a young woman who is interested in Chicago’s program next summer, you can get information here.

Article by Natalie Masri published in the Chicago Tribune at http://www.chicagotribune.com/bluesky/hub/ct-us-chamber-women-stem-education-20150710-story.html

Inspire her Mind video at  https://youtu.be/XP3cyRRAfX0

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