I have never been intimidated to be the only woman in the room and, in fact, I welcome the challenge. However, I know that many women – and young girls – do not feel the same. Girls need to be encouraged to stand up to the challenge, and I truly believe that having strong female role models is crucial to the development of confidence in the younger generation of female doers.
I have a saying: the problem with women in STEM is that there aren’t women in STEM. Of course, there are plenty of women in STEM – but not nearly enough. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up only 29% of the STEM workforce.
I have heard stories from many female friends only a few years older than myself who were interested in STEM fields – and even began to pursue a degree in a STEM field – but were too intimidated when they were the only woman in their collegiate-level class.
Attracting women to pursue careers in STEM fields is, of course, a very nuanced and complicated issue, but I truly believe that encouraging girls from a young age is crucial. We need to build the confidence of girls before society tells them that they aren’t cut out to be scientists, engineers, or mathematicians.
We need to provide girls with strong female role models early in life, and I’m proud to say that we have begun to rise to the challenge. Check out Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo’s Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World for examples of ways to inspire girls from an early age.
It’s certainly a good start, but we still need to be doing more. Mentorship is an incredibly powerful tool, and the implementation of mentorship programs would be an amazing way to encourage girls at the middle- and high-school levels.
And for those women who are wondering how to get started with something like programming, check out Django Girls for a great tutorial on building a blog using Django! Django Girls is one of my favorite organizations and I plan to volunteer with them as much as possible!
What are your thoughts? How would you encourage girls to become interested or confident in STEM fields? Do you participate in a mentorship program? Let me know in the comments or send me an email!