Women consistently exceed men in numbers of bachelor degrees earned, but even so, men exceed women in degrees earned in STEM fields. Why is that? Many believe that subtle messages that girls receive from the time they’re very young could instill in them a lack of confidence needed to compete with their male counterparts for jobs and be strong leaders. Obviously, we need more women in STEM fields, and it seems so simple to say that we should encourage more girls to explore science and math. But, beyond those statements, what can we actually do to make it happen?
Break stereotypes: Girls who repeatedly hear that women can’t excel in politics or as automotive engineers eventually believe it. Break those stereotypes in your home, and reverse any exposure to such thinking that they might encounter from outside sources. Girls can play with any kind of toys, enjoy all types of video games, and attend whatever camps they’re interested in, regardless of traditional blue vs. pink gender confines.
Set an example: If you are a mom, show your girls a great example of being a confident woman who values her own opinion and stands up for what is right (and for herself) when the time comes. If you are a dad, value the opinions of the women in your life and treat them the way you want people to treat your daughter! In addition to sending the message to girls that they their opinions matter and they are equally capable, it also sends that message to the boys in your household!
Encourage girls to take leadership positions in the community: Service or volunteer efforts are a great avenue to allow girls to gain confidence and show their stuff! Finding a cause that they are passionate about gives them the opportunity to practice and hone their leadership skills.
All kids deserve the same opportunities to succeed in and contribute to STEM fields or any field they choose! We’ve come a long way, for certain, but we still have a long way to go. We need to eliminate the messages that we’re sending and replace them with words and actions that will help our girls rise to their potential.