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Last year, I found a new purpose. Okay, it is not exactly a new purpose but a revised purpose — to help young children (especially young girls) develop a love of STEM. If I am honest, this revised purpose derives, in part, from a childhood in which reading and writing were the emphasis. It just never occurred to me that I could have a career working with numbers. My revised purpose is also one rooted in an old belief that I have an obligation to help empower the next generation of learners with the skills needed to be leaders and innovators in this century and beyond. While this is no easy feat for any student, girls continue to lag behind their male peers in the study of math, science, and technology. As hard as it is to believe, this continues to be a hard reality for many school age girls. However, there are signs that women are slowly breaking through the gender barriers that have limited real growth in fields like math and science. Just this year, Professor Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman to receive the Fields Medal for excellence in mathematics for her work on complex geometry. This is a huge accomplishment and one that should give hope to little girls all over the world who aspire to be STEM pioneers.
With new reasons to hope, what do we do to get girls into STEM? Blogger Jamie Davis Smith provides some helpful tips from leading STEM experts that are easy to follow both inside and outside the classroom. One of Davis Smith’s experts, Lillian Kellogg, advisor on the educational advisory board of The Goddard School, executive board member for P21, and vice president of Education Networks of America, “suggests the only gender difference in a child’s STEM abilities lies in the social and environmental constructs found within American culture.” Kellogg believes our society places “restrictions on girls (often through the questions we ask or what we expect of girls vs. boys) that prevents girls from actively exploring activities associated with math and science.” Ultimately, if we want our girls to feel more confident about STEM jobs in the future, we have to work to help them develop a true mindset for math, science, and technology. Check out Jamie’s blog post to learn how. tlb