Reflections on a Conversation about Advancing STEM Opportunities for Girls  

The need for STEM jobs is expected to grow by 11% through 2032, creating more than 1 million STEM occupations in the U.S. alone. With women making up half of the college-educated workforce, but only 34% of the STEM workforce, now is the time to identify and address barriers to STEM education for girls and young women. Research by The National Girls Collaborative Project shows that girls’ achievement levels in math and science are the same as boys. Yet there is a notable difference in their interests, confidence, and sense of belonging in the STEM areas.  

Two key questions come to mind: 

1. How can we encourage girls to pursue their interests in STEM?  
2. How can we close this clear gap in STEM opportunities? 


During Discovery Education’s recent webinar in partnership with EducationWeek, Women Leaders Advancing STEM Opportunities for Girls, a panel of district and corporate leaders shared their combined efforts to close the STEM gap for girls and encourage them to explore their STEM interests. Dr. Monique Darrisaw-Akil, Superintendent of Schools at Uniondale Free School District, Dr. Elizabeth Alvarez, Superintendent at Forest Park School District, and Susan Warner, Vice President of Community Engagement at Mastercard, Girls4Tech all came together to share insights from their experiences encouraging and advancing STEM opportunities for girls.  

District and Corporate Efforts: A Combined Approach to Closing the STEM Gap

The webinar underscored the power of collective action among corporations, districts, and educators. It has become increasingly apparent that increasing girls’ access to the STEM career pipeline requires a concerted, multi-dimensional approach. The panelists shared some ways corporate and educational partners can support one another: 

1. Retire old STEM models. STEM is more than math and science; it is a multidisciplinary approach to how students learn and understand the world around them. There are many skills people need in STEM careers—communication, logic, creativity, and analytics to name a few. We can help learners hone these skills through different resources and activities, like those available through Discovery Education’s STEM Careers Coalition 

2. Engage students early. The panelists stressed the importance of getting girls involved in STEM from an early age, leveraging the power of curiosity, exploration, and play. Early engagement can take various forms – science fairs, robotics clubs, family programming, and community events. Plus, these are materials and moments that corporate partners can help develop for the K – 12 space.  

3. Elevate STEM industries. The effect of seeing someone who looks like you in a field cannot be underestimated. Districts and corporations need to work together to increase representation of women in STEM. It’s critical that teachers showcase more women STEM leaders in everyday lessons to shift perceptions of what a typical STEM professional looks and sounds like. And when districts collaborate with corporate partners, there’s more opportunity to bring guest speakers, mentors, and hands-on engagement with successful women in STEM directly into our classrooms as well as afterschool programs.  

4. Walk the talk. If we want more girls to enter STEM careers, it’s essential that we introduce them to the wide variety of STEM careers and the growing demand for these jobs. Educators need to dedicate time for students to explore careers, and corporate partners need to support educators by developing and providing those classroom resources. Webinar speaker, Susan Warner, shared that we should provide girls with hands-on experiences that allow them to learn about a wide variety of STEM industries, such as data science, AI, data security, cyber security, computer science, and coding. For example, Discovery Education’s Career Connect provides educators with the opportunity to infuse careers into their instruction by connecting their classrooms directly with industry volunteers. These connections nurture student curiosity and empower students to visualize themselves in the many career paths that power our world.  

Discovery Education’s Corporate Education Partnerships  

Discovery Education strongly believes that the K – 12 system and corporate landscape are aligned in regard to diversifying and expanding the STEM workforce. The work we’re doing with our corporate partnerships is bridging classrooms to industries and closing the STEM gap for girls. For example, our partnership with Mastercard’s Girls4Tech program works to close the gap between opportunity, awareness, and readiness by providing schools and community organizations with free resources to educate, inspire, and equip young girls with the skills and confidence they need to envision themselves as future professionals in STEM fields. 

Additionally, the STEM Careers Coalition (SCC) works to support the STEM workforce by providing educators with accessible, ready to use resources and content and creating equitable opportunities for students to explore STEM. By bridging invested corporate and non-profit partners directly with schools, the SCC is uniquely positioned to create conditions for girls to see themselves in the future STEM workforce.  

While it’s undeniable that more work needs to be done, the recent webinar highlighted the power of districts and corporations working together to advance STEM opportunities for girls. I left this webinar feeling inspired and excited about the work to come  

It’s a collective effort to retire old STEM models, engage students early, elevate STEM industries, and empower learners to see themselves in the broad variety of STEM careers. With focused partnerships between the K – 12 space and corporations, we can provide the resources and experiences needed to help close the STEM gap – we’re better together 

Learn more about our corporate partnerships!