Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ruth N. Bramson: "Collaboration is key in ending STEM gap"

"Girls make up a majority of undergraduate students in this country, yet they earn a smaller share of the degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields," states Ruth N. Bramson, CEO of Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, in an OpEd for Mass High Tech. "Gender stereotypes negatively affect girls’ perception of STEM. Girls need hand-on, collaborative learning opportunities to complement traditional classroom learning, which is often focused on lectures and textbooks. Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts know that girls’ interest in STEM is strong and sustainable when girls are able to engage in STEM in an environment that is welcoming and safe."

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute study Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, 74 percent of teen girls are interested in STEM subjects and the general field of study. Further, a high 82 percent of girls see themselves as "smart enough to have a career in STEM." And yet, few girls consider it their number-one career option: 81 percent of girls interested in STEM are interested in pursuing STEM careers, but only 13 percent say it's their first choice. Additionally, girls express that they don't know a lot about STEM careers and the opportunities afforded by these fields, with 60 percent of STEM-interested girls acknowledging that they know more about other careers than they do about STEM careers.

Girls are also aware that gender barriers persist in today's society: 57 percent of those studied concur that if they were to pursue a STEM career, they would "have to work harder than a man to be taken seriously."

"Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts is committed to ensuring that every girl has the opportunity to explore and build an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics," states Bramson. "The strength of our nation depends on increasing girls’ involvement in STEM, and in helping them to develop critical-thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration skills that are so important throughout life. While the percentage of careers that require advanced STEM education increases, an alarmingly high percentage of girls lose interest in STEM subjects early in their development. If the U.S. is to maintain its competitive advantage in the global economy, we need to ensure that our entire population of young people —especially girls— are educated in STEM fields."