Girls in STEM – Inspiring a Love of STEM Subjects
Girls in STEM – Inspiring a Love of STEM Subjects is About Mindset
Inspiring a love of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in girls is all about mindset. The disparity between the numbers of men and women who study STEM subjects and who have STEM careers is known as the STEM gap, and it’s a persistent problem that needs addressing. When given the chance, girls actually perform just as well if not better than their male classmates in mathematics and science subjects at an early age, so it’s not a problem of ability – it’s a cultural problem, and it can be addressed through the attitudes of adults who interact with children, including their tutors.
A brief history
The history of schools supporting boys over girls at STEM is long, and the stereotypes that still exist about who makes better mathematicians, scientists and engineers aren’t going away any time soon. Even as recently as the 1980s, girls have been encouraged to think less about STEM subjects and more about homemaking. Subjects like Aesthetics and Design focused on decorating your home, making costumes, pricing furniture, and learning how to choose the best credit card for your household. These subjects were mandatory for girls, and took up valuable time that could have been devoted to STEM subjects. In a recent study, young children were interviewed about who they saw as the standard mathematician or scientist, and asked to draw them. These children, whether male or female, almost always drew men. These persistent, subconscious stereotypes that exist can be quite harmful to girls, who display statistically less confidence in raising their hands in male-dominated classrooms. We as a society have come a long way when it comes to equality in the classroom and in the workplace, but there is still a long way to go.
Show me the numbers
If we look at the statistics, female students are less interested and confident than their male counterparts. Just 61% of girls show interest in science, compared to 68% of boys. Only 56% of girls are confident in getting good results in their technology courses, while 73% of boys show confidence. Researchers have dubbed it the ‘stereotype threat’, which is the perception that one group or gender is not as good as another at a task. When girls are aware through cultural messaging about the supposed superiority of boys in maths and science, each encounter with these subjects causes anxiety, and girls lose confidence. It has a proven link to lower academic performance, and is just one of the reasons why there are still huge gaps in the numbers of females who enter STEM professions versus the number of males.
What other issues act as a barrier to girls in STEM subjects? How do we address them?
Another issue can be that STEM subjects, often taught by male teachers, focus on just one style of learning that doesn’t translate well to other learners, no matter their gender. If these teachers were provided with more relatable or engaging methods to teach their students, such as hands-on assignments, 3D modelling, or different ways of relating to the material such as providing real-world applications for it, then more students would retain their interest in STEM subjects in the long run.
Schools can also help to encourage female students by increasing the number of STEM mentors and role models that girls have access to. Even hiring more female teachers can help build girls confidence that they too can succeed in STEM. Girls who are encouraged by their parents are also twice as likely to keep studying STEM subjects. By increasing the number of role models and female teachers and tutors, schools can create more inclusive classrooms that value female opinions. Getting students of any gender to celebrate women in stem careers right now, and the remarkable things they are achieving, can help to bridge this STEM gap.
How can A Team Tuition help?
At A Team Tuition, our sessions are designed based on the individual. We take into account what learning and educational styles will work best for your child, and we consider their strengths and weaknesses. We find the right tutor for your daughter, someone who will encourage her to succeed wherever her interests lie. If your daughter shows a desire to one day work in a STEM field but may not have the confidence, we can help her regain it. Through the use of our specialised tutoring program, we help empower your daughter to change the way she thinks about and approaches STEM subjects, and to regain her interest and love for them.
To help encourage your daughter to pursue STEM subjects and maybe even a STEM career, book a tutoring session with A Team Tuition today!