By Cindy Moss, Senior Director of Global STEM Initiatives for Discovery Education
What did you want to be when you grew up?
At the end of the last century, you wouldn’t have been able to even name some of the top jobs of today: user experience developer, driverless car engineer, mobile app designer. Maybe that isn’t even the right question anymore. Instead, we should be asking kids, what kinds of problems do you want to solve? Imagine being able to engineer better medicines, enhance virtual reality, secure cyberspace, or ensure access to clean water.
In the words of Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Unfortunately, girls may have a harder time envisioning a wide-open future than boys do. They have traditionally been steered away from STEM due to stereotypes that girls naturally excel at social skills—collaboration, communication, problem-solving, and the ability to take multiple perspectives.
Our understanding is evolving, though: Not only are these skills and abilities not gender-specific, they are assets for any individual in the STEM disciplines. Employers know this.
For their own futures and for generations to come, it’s our responsibility to provide engaging and meaningful STEM programs to continue to show girls what they can be.
I have had the opportunity to see STEM programs in action around the globe and have been particularly inspired by some of the programs dedicated to engaging girls in STEM projects and maintaining their interest in the key disciplines. From Dubai to Finland to Egypt and back home to the United States, I’ve met educators who are working with each other and their students to ensure a bright future for girls and the societies they will serve in the coming decades.
Two educators leading the charge in the United States have had significant success. Dr. Tina Plummer, assistant superintendent for curriculum, assessment, and professional development in the Mehlville School District in St. Louis, MO, and Dr. Candy Singh, superintendent of the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District in Fallbrook, CA, are both innovators who find themselves, literally, at the table with students, mentors, and educators.
Discovery Education works regularly with these partners, but we took some time to focus on their initiatives to spark girls’ interest in the STEM fields. Hopefully, pieces of our conversations will spark your own ideas for continuing to innovate in this critical area.
In our latest article, discover how two STEM programs, led by Dr. Plummer and Dr. Singh, are inspiring girls to break down the barriers to STEM careers.