Did someone tell me that math and science were no go zones for girls? Because little me wanted to be a writer, artist, a professional hula hooper, and a million other things. Not one of them involved math or science though and it turns out I’m actually pretty great at both!
74% of young girls express interest in STEM fields but last year a little over six percent of women graduated with STEM degrees. Where are we losing interest? And how do we feed the interests of these STEM girls? I don’t know the answer but I do know STEM programs were framed completely wrong in my case. Not once did I think that science and math were interesting fields to go into.
I’ve always been creative. Growing up my strongest subjects were English, Home Economics, and Technology. In junior high I started tinkering with computers. By high school, I knew how to fix computer software issues, completely get around the school’s firewall, taught myself Photoshop to teach my high school computer class, and even saved a senior project from its technological demise. By graduation, I knew basic HTML, CSS, Photoshop, and could type 75 words per minute. I could do nice things with a computer without the fear of breaking it. But it wasn’t until well after college that I realized computers were science and I was awesome at math.
Yesterday, I spent the day at the Science Center volunteering as students wandered around checking out the many ways that science fit into their day to day lives and realized that not only was I currently working in a science field but anything could be interesting if you frame it right (no jokes aside).
On a typical work day I spend my time analyzing data to see why and how things break in a huge system and communicating to application developers on how to improve processes. I absolutely had zero idea on what a business technical analyst did before taking the position but a temp agency took one look at my resume and convinced me that I would be great at it and that’s more than a science or math teacher has ever done in the past. Turns out a lot of my writing and communications skills transfered well when they were paired with my self taught technology skills. It would be cool if STEM educators could build bridges between what young women like and connect them to fields that need more women. Recently, I took a SQL Basics course to figure out how to handle data more efficiently and to maybe understand why there’s a technology gap and I‘m certain if someone framed math and science into something that I was interested in or even noticed my love for tinkering with how things work, that I would’ve connected computers to science quicker. I’ve taken a few programming classes and if we could reprogram (not water down) how we’re teaching programming that would do wonders. Yesterday at the Science Center I saw steps in the right direction. Sure teaching kids basic orgami was fun but showing them how scientists, engineers, and astronauts were utilizing their concepts was also eye opening. Girls want to math and science but we have to nurture their curiosity and not push them away with the “math is hard,” narrative.