Thursday, February 16, 2012

Girl Scouts Brief U.S. Administration on Generation STEM

On February 15, 2012 Girl Scouts of the USA had the opportunity to brief senior members of The Administration and key government agencies on the newly released national research report, Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Researchers from the Girl Scout Research Institute detailed the results of the study and how they contradict the longstanding assumption that girls are simply uninterested in these fields.

Attendees, included staff from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the White House Council on Women and Girls, the White House Council on Environment Quality, the National Economic Council, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Education. The group was interested to learn that the girl voice perspective of the study is central to understanding the implications of the findings. Judy Schoenberg, Director of Research and Outreach, from the Girl Scout Research Institute explained that the research was conducted with the goal of shifting the conversation from the problem—the underrepresentation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields—to the root of the issue and ultimately, the solution. For this Girl Scouts went to the experts—girls!

Young girls overwhelmingly reported that they are in fact interested and enthusiastic about STEM subjects, but many don’t see a clear path to a career. Kamla Modi, Research and Outreach Analyst and lead researcher for Generation STEM, explained that this sense of a barrier is ingrained in girls over time by a combination of circumstances. The most influential of these circumstances show a lack of female mentors in STEM fields, safe spaces to fail, STEM literacy and, exposure to the fields. Girl Scouts of the USA staff were excited to share policy recommendations as well as examples of how to better prime interested girls for careers in STEM.

The findings of Generation STEM were encouraging for those in attendance. Many were eager to have more in-depth data and learn how their agencies and offices can put the findings into action to be a part of the solution. Interested parties were invited to participate in the upcoming webinar hosted by the Girl Scout Research Institute. The Office of Science and Technology was particularly interested in ways they could promote these findings and integrate the suggested solutions into future public policy. In order to convert girl interest into action adult interest must take action first. Girl Scouts of the USA was so thrilled to see the motivation and enthusiasm for getting young girls more STEM exposure, education, and experience.