STEM, (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) encompasses areas of technical and expert support in areas of Physical sciences, Computing and Engineering. Girls at an early age are discouraged and less interested in STEM related fields at a young age due to gender stereotypes and perception as a ‘’male centric’’ career path; hence they are under-represented in Computer Science and Engineering fields. Averaged across regions, women accounted for less than a third (29.3%) of those employed in scientific research and development (R&D) across the world in 2016. However, engaging "Girls in STEM" at an early age is the first big step in sparking their curiosity. I have outlined below Nine actionable ways we can propel and position our ‘’Girls’’ to take on global STEM opportunities and challenges
1. Support and encouragement: celebrate her little attempts, progress. Emphasize the value of the process and not the correct answer or not getting it right the first time
2. Give “Her” Early access to hands-on engineering activities and tools (puzzles, e.g. Stem toys, online resources: code.org, Minecraft, Scratch programming, Alice, https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/makecode to spark the girl child’s interest and provide access to mentorship by successful women in computing.
3. Enroll her in life-long Technology Acceleration Programs in your country; do not give room to make computing optional. Show her how it has impacted her environment
4. Create a makers group or a Stem fun club where they jointly build robots, games and applications. Check Microsoft Hacking STEM Library
5. Harness handholding mentorship; expose her to Technology/STEM projects her peers are building around the world.
6. Create the curiosity in her. Ask her “what problem do you want to solve?” not what do you want to be when you grow up. Teach her to ask questions. Teach her to use the WHY? question to spark her curiosity
8. Enroll her in competitions and STEM associations, locally and internationally, let her join clubs as well to share ideas with others around the world. There are diverse competitions and clubs you can enroll as mentioned a few as below:
- Microsoft Imagine Competition: https://imaginecup.microsoft.com/en-us/junior
9. Encourage her to consistently ideate, create and build real life problem solving apps and gadgets
Women like Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova; the first and youngest woman who ventured to the unknown of space; Tebello Nyokong who is also making strides with her laser-based alternative to regular chemotherapy have become trail blazers and role models to take after.
There is an urgent need to expose "Girls" to STEM role models and activities to spark their curiosity and creativity early on
Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) (August 4, 2020).
Global Shakers: https://globalshakers.com/shaker-list/20-women-in-science-to-know/