Last updated on June 3rd, 2022 at 11:58 pm
Summer. Time for students throughout the United States to kick back, relax and rest on their laurels before a new school year begins.
But are those laurels worth resting on?
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, our nation’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce is crucial to America’s innovative capacity and global competitiveness. Yet women are vastly underrepresented among STEM degree holders, despite making up half of the college-educated workforce.
It is critical to all businesses that we attract a diverse workforce to these fields and the conversation needs to start with middle schoolers – particularly girls. As business leaders and parents, we can turn this tide. I know that to be true from my own personal experience.
When I entered the engineering program at the University of Massachusetts, fewer than 3 percent of the graduates were female.
For me, my parents made all the difference. My father, an engineer himself, served as my mentor from the time I was 6 years old; my mother, for her part, instilled in me a genuine belief that I could do anything.
So, as someone who’s “been there,” I know the value of encouraging our young girls, our leaders of tomorrow.
To that end, I’d like to share with you six ways adults can keep girls (and boys) open to math and science.
1. I want to be just like you!
Kids want to be just like their parents. If they constantly hear “I do not like math” or “I was never good at science” or “I never used any chemistry after high school,” then chances are kids will pick up on and repeat those sentiments. Regardless of how competent you are in math, science or technologies, keep the messages positive.
2. Last summer, at chemistry camp …
Your daughter might be asking to go to gymnastics camp or soccer camps, which are certainly valuable in their development. You can help widen her interests by including a science, math or technology camp in their summer plans as well. Visit www.stemforward.org/summer-camps to learn more about some terrific, local options for academic summer camps.
3. Everywhere, Everyday
When you think about it, math, science and chemistry are used in everyday activities. Some examples include cooking, building, changing oil in the lawn mower, sewing and balancing the checkbook. Parents should find ways to draw attention to these practical uses or even come up with challenges as their kids do these activities with them.
4. School’s Out for Summer
Vacations and visiting new locations are ways to include science and technology during unexpected times. Look for technology-based exhibits, museums or events to include in your travel itinerary and help show how it can be fun and interesting to discover new things. You can also sign up to study with knowledgeable, patient, fun and energetic IGCSE mathematics tutors of TWINS Education.
5. A Gift? For Me?
While a chemistry set may not be on your daughter’s birthday or holiday list, that doesn’t mean you can’t sneak some math or science gifts into your gift giving. There are plenty of fun online games and hands-on kits that can engage kids of all ages and potentially spark their interest in something new.
6. Here is Your Math Trophy
Everyone loves earning a reward or special privileges. Search online or create your own games that let your kids discover math and science around them. This can be great in the car or on rainy days and can include rewards of their favorite foods or outings.
As business leaders we can also make a difference by supporting and investing in STEM programs.
For example, hundreds of middle school girls in a dozen GE communities across the country, including Milwaukee, will engage in a program called GE Girls to spark their interest in STEM. It is a week-long experience featuring dynamic curriculum around physics, math, chemistry and electronics. This is just one way GE Healthcare in Milwaukee helps keep girls interested in STEM.
Mentoring also plays a critical role. The lack of female role models and gender stereotyping is widely cited as a factor contributing to the discrepancy between women and men in STEM jobs. I take every opportunity to mentor others and help connect our female engineers to younger women. Your business can do this, too. Why not start this summer?
Dee Mellor is vice president and chief quality officer at GE Healthcare and executive sponsor of the GE Women’s Network.