Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Newsday: "Girl Scouts See a High-tech Future"

In a column for Newsday titled "Girl Scouts see a High-tech Future", Jennifer Wheary writes that Girl Scouts is taking a lead role in improving America's STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills by respecting young women as prospective scientists and scientifically literate workers, and by bringing awareness and excellent opportunities to millions of girls who might otherwise not pursue their passion for science.

"Getting girls interested in science is nothing new to the Girl Scouts," states Wheary. "The organization has worked for many years with partners including NASA, the National Science Foundation, Dell, AT&T, Google and Lockheed Martin to provide learning opportunities for their troops. Thousands of girls throughout the country have earned badges and participated in leadership courses that involve STEM subjects. Scouts are designing and building robots, completing energy audits in buildings, assessing air quality, and doing sophisticated math, computer programming and graphic design."

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute study Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, though a majority of today’s girls have a clear interest in STEM, they don’t prioritize STEM fields when thinking about their future careers.

This latest offering from the Girl Scout Research Institute shows that 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.

"America has a huge opportunity for economic growth when looking at girls' interest in science, technology, engineering and math," says Anna Maria Chávez, chief executive of the Girl Scouts of the USA. "It is in this country's best interest to make girls feel supported and capable when it comes to involvement in STEM fields -- and anything else they set their minds to and have traditionally been steered away from. Our research shows that girls do just as well in math and science as boys do, but their confidence in their math and science abilities is lower than boys."

"The task is to convert girls' intelligence and interest into a long-term love for science and technology, and, ultimately, employment in STEM occupations," states Wheary. "To do this, girls need to develop confidence and resilience. We need to create ways for them to continually interact with science, to face their fears and failures with strength and grace, and to be supported as they meet obstacles... The Girl Scouts' past 100 years of achievement is laudable, and its current focus on STEM means that the organization's impact will continue well into the next century."