With a growing interconnected global society, it is more important than ever for educators to find ways to encourage girls to take interest in STEM fields.
Women and girls are consistently underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM fields. Much has been written recently about why female students seem uninterested in these areas.
A few weeks ago, researchers at the Universities of Pittsburgh and Michigan released the results of a study that reflected many girls’ antipathy toward all things STEM. The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, tracked about 1500 college-bound students over a decade and found that more women had the highest scores on both the math and the verbal portion of the SAT test than their male counterparts. These women were more likely to pursue non-STEM careers after graduation even though they excelled in those fields in school. As the principal researcher of the study, Ming-Te Wang, summarizes, “This highlights the need for educators and policy makers to shift the focus away from trying to strengthen girls’ STEM-related abilities and instead tap the potential of these girls who are highly skilled in both the math and verbal domains to go into STEM fields.” We couldn’t agree more.
As educators in a STEM-focused high school, we come in contact with intellectually gifted female scientists every day–albeit young ones. We also know there aren’t enough of them. As a school, we struggle to attract young women who want to attend an engineering-focused high school in the first place. In our time here, we’ve never had more girls than boys in any given class. Too often, our gender ratio is lopsided. We know that this is not a result of ability. As the Pittsburg-Michigan study showed, and what we experience every day in our classrooms, is that there is no shortage of girls who could successfully pursue anything they wanted. The girls in our school are brilliant and many do pursue careers in STEM-related fields. However, some choose not to, and other smart girls never even make it through our front door. Why not?
Perhaps girls with high verbal scores choose careers other than STEM because their passion hasn’t been kindled in those classes. We know it is not the fault of their teachers but a problem of process. For many schools, arts and sciences are rarely ever integrated. Teachers are kept apart with little time to collaborate.
Continue reading about integrating storytelling and STEM.