Encouraging Interest in STEM with Our Youngest Girls
by: Sara Kuzma-Stump
During this National Teacher Appreciation Week 2018, I can’t help but think about our Science Teachers. As a mother of a second grade girl who loves science and nature, and since I have a career in the environmental lab industry, I think about how her science teachers are influencing her future.
Many organizations are making it clear that there is a desire to increase gender diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries. Google CEO Sundar Pichai spoke last year at the Technovation Challenge World Pitch Summit and specifically addressed the teen girl audience, saying “I want you to know that there’s a place for you in this industry.”
Many experts claim that the feeling of not belonging in technical subjects starts young, and young girls need to believe they too have an innate ability to understand math and science. Therefore, it is important to nurture young girls’ interests in math and science to offset any negative perceptions before they start developing.
As an employer with a majority of women on our Senior Leadership Team at our Laboratory, I want to continue this trend forward for our future generations.
Where to Start
Role Modelling is one important way to influence your daughters. Even if you don’t work in a laboratory, you can share basic STEM concepts with your daughter. Cooking, gardening, taking care of a pet, and reading picture books that feature young scientists are all examples of that routine exposure.
Girls can still value cheerleading, princesses, pink and glitter. But they should know that they can also love math and science and get that encouragement from the adults in their life.
The exposure to media messages starts well before grade school, and as a mother of two young children, I have noticed a shift in media exposure opportunities in recent years.
The Disney Junior Network, a top channel choice for parents of preschoolers, has been at the forefront of this transformation by exposing successful diverse roles in family and career in their programming. And with great success.
Doc McStuffins is a young girl with a stay at home dad and a physician mother who aspires to be a doctor herself. Miles from Tomorrowland shows a family of space travelers where the Mother is the captain of the ship. The Lion Guard’s main character isn’t going to be king, his sister will rule. Elena of Avalor will also rule her kingdom, too.
Television sets have shifted in recent years to illustrate the intelligence and strength potential in young girls alongside their male counterparts.
If we continue this positive trend of exposure, and take advantage of our children’s play and screen time using tools such as these, we will continue to close the gender gap in our STEM careers in the future.
About The Author
Sara Kuzma-Stump has been a member of our team since 2005 working on the client services side of our business in various capacities. She resides in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania with her husband, two children and her dog Einstein. Connect with her on LinkedIn or via email [email protected].