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get more girls interested in STEM subjects

How do we get more girls interested in STEM subjects?

It’s a debate that will rage for years to come. It’s a question so many have tried to answer. How do we get more girls interested in STEM subjects?

Locally it is simple. If you want girls to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths you need to give them access to the tools. We can’t address a gender imbalance until we address the major economic discrepancies Africa currently faces.

According to Intel “there are almost 45 percent less women connected to the internet than men in sub-Saharan Africa.” So step one is to get girls online. Organisations like Girl Hype are doing their bit to make this happen. Intel has thrown their weight behind programmes like MakeHers to also get girls more interested in STEM subjects. Dell and Acer have recently launched fantastic educational offerings in their product range. Cheaper notebooks and tablets specifically aimed at the education sector. If technology is easily accessible and affordable regions like Africa can do more to ensure classrooms are switched on.

Big brands providing tech support for the youth

It’s not all doom and gloom. The number of women in engineering has increased by 20% over the last three years. We still have a long way to go though. Bernadette Adrietti, the vice-president for the sales and marketing group of Intel in Europe, the Middle East and Africa is positive about recent female growth in STEM subjects. However she thinks that traditional gender roles set us back. She used the example of Lego, saying when she was growing up her brother could play with Lego while she was not allowed to.

When asked how we get more girls interested in STEM subjects Adrietti had this to say:

“We need to inspire more girls and women to become creators and innovators. We need to help them raise their confidence. I am optimistic for women in the field for years to come. Some amazing things are happening with women in the field. Women are engaging more with technology and are getting more exposure from an education perspective. Now we must build on it and nurture the movement.”

Women like Lynette Hundermark (a South African woman making waves in the tech industry) are paving the way by sharing their stories and struggles in the industry. I think this form of sharing does help to inspire girls interested in studying STEM.

I think there are a few other ways we can:

get more girls interested in STEM subjects
The only stock image I could find of “female engineer”… really?!

We, as women in male dominated industries, need to support each other. It is my experience that women in male dominated industries feel threatened when other women enter them and can be a greater hindrance to growing the industry than any gender divide. Instead of uplifting one another women tend to prefer to tear each other down. Blame female instincts, PMS or some sort of primal fear ingrained in us from years gone by…. who knows. We just need to stop it.

You don’t need to be one of the boys to enjoy STEM subjects or be in the technology fields. There is a misconception that being one of the boys will get you further. I don’t think that is the case. We don’t need to lose our femininity in order to fit in. I want to touch on the Lego memory that Adrietti mentioned. Rattle and Mum posted last year about Lego introducing a female scientist range. It was rather awesome. In fact Tanya (blogger at Rattle and Mum) has advocated the issue of boys’ and girls’ toys and how they feed gender stereotypes for some time. I want to build on that message and share it further here as it relates to encouraging girls to study STEM subjects.

When you walk into a toy store boys’ toys are on one side, girls’ on the other. There is a clear colour difference (blue and pink, we’ve all seen it). By rights, we should do away with it. But someone in a marketing office somewhere likely has pages of data to justify these moves. So instead of fighting it, why don’t we meet in the middle?

get more girls interested in STEM subjects

Lego has a range called Mindstorms which include software that allows kids to make their own programmable robots. The kits come with the necessary hardware and software to help a child along and they are fantastic toys to encourage an interest in STEM subjects. They’re also always boxed and presented in the boys’ section of the store. I know about Mindstorms because the range has been around since I was 15 years old (my parents bought them for my brother…. Just saying).

Would it really be the worst thing to develop a female robot or, God forbid, make a pink one and place it in the girl’s section? I don’t think so. It’s a small and silly step but it might assist in making a bit of a difference.

Would this help? How do you think we get more girls interested in STEM subjects?

For more stories like this one and MORE… visit http://iq.intel.co.za/

 

  1. Pink Lego programmable robots aside, it might be a generation gap – some of the biggest exposure to any industry is often in the form of what your parents do for work and/or pleasure. Not trying to encourage a baby boom, just saying that parents ought to make sure there are no gender-based differences in parenting approaches to career options.
    Maybe the inimitable Tanya Kovarsky could offer insight from the parenting side 🙂

  2. At the risk of being called names, etc.

    Lets be honest here. go to school, and look at it from there. It is a popularity contest, and sorry to say this ladies, but you are all after the cool guys. It is the same around the world. And those aren’t the guys who are interested in Tech.

    Now being rejected as a male is a lot more common place, and we have accepted that role for years, even at school level. We can be called rejects, outcasts, nerd etc, and we are fine. Unfortunately, it seem ladies takes it a lot more seriously, and the battle for being cool is a lot bigger than anybody would let on.

    If you make tech cool, more ladies will want to be involved from a younger age, when the foundation is being laid. By the time you reach varsity, it is almost already to late tbh.

    Agree with what was said about the toy shops. If a girl wants to play with cars, let her, just allow her the opportunity to decide for herself.

    1. Tech IS cool…but the “jocks” refuse to acknowledge that 😉
      I get what you’re saying, and you’re right – grassroots level is also a good place to start promoting.

  3. My company works with high school kids and we ran a few surveys last year just looking at career paths boys and girls choose. We also looked at the subject choices of both males and females and found some really interesting trends.

    Please note that I’m speaking in generalities.

    Girls prefer subjects that are more theoretical, where knowledge is more necessary than a skill while boys prefer the opposite. Girls want to be lawyers and doctors while boys want to be engineers, programmers and mechanics.

    If we want to change this I think we need to look at changing perceptions of careers not just the grass root level but in terms of how we perceive them (e.g. Engineers are hard people that work longer hours and drink too much). Even though we are trying to take away the idea that jobs aren’t gender specific I think we still have a long way to go in regards to taking gender associated descriptors out of jobs.

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