15 Mar 4 Tactics to Get Your Female Students Involved in STEM and IT
Despite comprising over half of the workforce, only 26 percent of women held computing and IT occupations in 2016. Of that 26 percent, 5 percent were Asian, 3 percent were African-American, and 2 percent were Hispanic. Not only is there a gender gap in the IT field, but a diversity gap as well—especially for women of color.
But this is old news.
We are hardly surprised when we hear these statistics and though there is much more awareness about the issue, the IT gender and diversity gap isn’t shrinking quickly enough.
Somewhere along the way, girls are getting messages like… they aren’t as smart as boys and that IT and STEM are a “man’s world.” These socially-constructed [and harmful] ideas are reinforced as girls see themselves underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields, and certain work cultures, like Silicon Valley, are highly discouraging towards women.
So where do we start to shift this mindset? How can we encourage girls to pursue their passion for IT and STEM while also eliminating negative messages about women in IT? Karen Quintos, chief customer officer at Dell suggests we start with the education system. Here are 4 things you can do at your school to encourage your female students to get involved.
Turn STEM into STEAM
“STEM, unfortunately, has been branded as a male domain,” said Eric Klopfer, director of MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program. By adding arts and humanities to the mix (the “A” in STEAM), you can eliminate the gender connotations associated with STEM and reach a broader audience in a neutral way. STEAM is inclusive and allows students to be creative while forcing them to explore other areas they might be interested in.
Three goals of STEAM at your school should be:
- To transform research policy and place Art + Design at the center of STEM
- To encourage integration of Art + Design in K–12 education
- To influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation
Rebranding STEM to STEAM in your school will require materials and training. And like all educational initiatives, everyone must be “on board” and share the same messaging. Educate your teachers on the issues behind STEM (and STEAM), teach them how to teach. This will be much more effective in the long term.
Storytelling has been used as a teaching method since humans first learned to communicate. Sharing stories about strong female characters will give girls something to relate to and aspire to. Books about girls who are engineers, coders, or computer programmers will inspire curiosity and exploration in your students and help them to see their future selves in IT roles. Here is a list of 10 books you might consider sharing with your students!
Create a Girls’ Club or Support an Existing One
If your school doesn’t have an IT club geared toward girls, create one. You can make your own curriculum, but if you need some guidance Girls Who Code is here to help! Additionally, organizations like the Girl Scouts have jumped headfirst on the STEM train. They have developed new programs, lessons, and badges to help girls learn code and develop their STEM skill sets. As an IT influencer, lend your time to these organizations, teach a seminar, host a party, whatever you can do to get involved!
Address Race and Ethnicity Head On
Oftentimes when we talk about women in IT, we forget the unique issues that women and girls of color face. Your school’s efforts should be intersectional and focused on diversity. Expand your vision by including diverse representations of girls in IT and be intentional about inviting girls of color to be leaders, educators, and speakers in classrooms and clubs. Create programs that not only address the difficulties of women in IT, but the difficulties minorities face. Demonstrating to your students that you recognize their diverse needs and struggles will not only create a positive culture but will encourage girls to embrace who they are and who they want to be.
If you have any more ideas or examples about how your school is getting girls involved in IT, leave your comments here! We’d love to hear from you!