Time for Girls to go Full STEAM Ahead
In a country such as Ireland, where we largely rely on large multinationals to fund our economy, the twin pillars of IT and Pharmaceuticals stand clear. Ireland may once upon a time be known as the land of Saints and Scholars but compared to many other leading and steadily emerging countries, we need to place a stronger focus on developing scientists, programmers and engineers. One significant reason that we may fall behind is if we do not encourage our female students to pursue career paths into STEM careers!
This needs to change and part of this is a mindset, to educate girls about all the possibilities that exist within these fields and to teach them that the only thing that matters about a ‘glass ceiling’ is that it allows you to see what is above you and shows you how to get there!
Girls match and out perform boys in many areas but more women are needed to contribute to the STEAM fields. (STEAM is the integration of Art into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Sound contradictory? I suppose you could consider it that way)
This can be done by.
Never has information be so easily and readily accessible – there is an amount of information available for girls interested in entering the STEM fields. Students can visit the websites of multiple professional organizations such as Girls in Tech, iwish.ie, witsireland.com, and accenture , to name just a few. These and other similar resources present a great opportunity for young women to learn a great deal about the field, about career possibilities and what it’s like to be a woman in a specific STEM profession. It’s true you have to sift through a lot on the internet but it can also provide you with golden information. There is a great infographic from Accenture found here
Open Girls to STEM
As a school, we stand to gain a lot by exposing our students to STEM fields and encouraging those who are interested to follow their hearts and minds. Simply focusing attention will not solve all societal issues that influence career choices among females. Across Ireland, all schools and all teachers must endeavour to create environments in secondary school maths and science classes that are inviting to girls if we want to prevent the likelihood of their choosing a different direction. When they are exposed to science and technology and are equally encouraged to study the subjects, those with talent and a genuine interest in those fields will be able to develop that interest.
Encourage Participation in Special Programs
More and more companies are realising that they have a corporate responsibility to encourage students to be interested in STEM fields. In-school and out-of-school programs are gaining popularity, and in order for that to continue, schools need support from both local and national efforts to foster girls. Without understanding the opportunities that are available to students of maths and science, young women may think they have made a mistake when facing the challenges of completing a STEM major. The good news is that efforts are being made by lots of companies and any of them that want to help us, can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Provision of Learning Opportunities
As mentioned, there has been an improved focus on motivating young girls to explore IT, Science and Technology. This shows an important shift in thinking. What we need also are companies and organizations that offer work experience, career shadowing and summer internships to provide a chance for girls to learn more about the different possibilities in the STEM fields.
The BT Young Scientist competition is a wonder, it has been a fantastic flagship for involving students in science. However, from 2000 to 2017 it has been won by a male entry 12 times and female entry just 4 times (for the record the other win was a mixed team). Why?
Probably due to a variety of issues, but what if we engaged mentors to help girls develop and advance their entries? We have certainly seen within St. Al’s that when you ask for help, either to companies or to UCC and CIT that help has always been provided. But what if companies went further and provided a mentor to schools, someone who is willing to spend time teaching techniques and explaining processes, but also someone who takes an interest in long-term advancement. Mentoring can bring huge benefits both to students and the companies involved.
Girls have been performing better than boys in the Leaving Cert for a number of years now, but this equalises out in college and entry into STEM careers are much higher amongst boys. More women are needed within these fields, and as the representation increases it will become more evident to young girls what they can offer the world.