Friday, November 7, 2014

Girls and STEM—How to encourage young women to study science

I read an editorial recently, “AcademicScience Isn’t Sexist,” that claims women aren’t facing discrimination in the academy as much as failing to make educational choices early on that include science.

According to researchers, from a young age girls tend to show more interest in people and animals compared to boys who tend to prefer building and playing with machines.  During adolescence as a
consequence, girls are less interested in engineering and computer science.  Even though girls earn higher grades than boys throughout the K-12 years, they are less likely to take advanced courses in physics and calculus.  In college this pattern continues. 

How can we break this cycle?

One way is to encourage girls to take more advanced level math and science courses in high school.  Another way is to encourage young women to take introductory science courses near the beginning of their college years.  If they do so, studies show that they are more likely to choose a math-intensive science major. 

Currently, women make up 80% of graduates from veterinary school and 70% of recent psychology PhDs.  Wouldn’t it be great if the percentage levels of their participation in engineering, computer science and physics could climb at least toward 50%?

In addition to encouraging your daughter to take more advanced math and science in school you might also suggest she enroll in a summer science enrichment program.  Two possibilities are:

COSMOS: California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science at the campuses of UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, UC Irvine and UC San Diego

Sally Ride Science Camps at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, Cal Tech and MIT