7 Ways to encourage your daughter’s interest in STEM

By Susan Pohorski

Contrary to Cyndi Lauper's popular song, girls don't just want to have fun, girls want to do lots of things. They want to use their brains, explore their environments, make a difference, create things and help people.

The number of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields is not keeping pace with the rising demand for skilled workers in these areas. Women only represent 26 percent of the college-educated workforce in science and engineering occupations.

So what is holding them back? According to Annie Murphy Paul female students lack a sense of belonging in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes. Environment matters. Girls do better in all female classes, even online. For some it is a matter of self-perception—they just don’t think they are good at science and math.

As a parent you can build your daughter’s confidence and encourage her to explore STEM interests, opportunities and careers.

Here are seven organizations that are supporting girls’ exploration of STEM education.

  1. Girls Who Code – A national nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors. The group sponsors clubs and summer immersion programs.
  2. Scigirls – The Public Broadcasting System produces a half-hour reality show for kids ages 8-12 that shows middle school girls eager to find answers to their questions. PBS also built a website full of projects, friends, games, videos and rewards for girls and a website for parents. Parents will find episodes of the show and activities they can share with their daughters.
  3. Girl Scouts of the USA – The Girl Scout Research Institute conducted a study of what girls say about STEM. In 2013 the organization received a $600,000 grant for the Journey and Connect Through Technology program. One outcome of the grant was Be the Video Game Developer, an interactive experience for girls.
  4. Made With Code – Google produced this interactive website and inspiring video with support from Girls, Inc., Girl Scouts of the USA, MIT Media Lab, Mozilla Webmaker, SEW Electric and Shapeways. It exposes girls to computer science projects, mentors, events and communities.
  5. Girls Inc. – Seeks to overcome society’s messages and pressures that make girls doubt their self worth. Look for a program in your area and use the resources on the website to help your daughter.
  6. TechGirlz -  A nonprofit dedicated to reducing — and ultimately eliminating — the gender gap in technology occupations. Techgirlz holds workshops and an annual entrepreneurial summer camp to give middle-school girls hands-on experience with different kinds of technology and enable them to interact with women who have successful careers in technology fields.
  7. National Girls Collaborative Project – NGCP brings together organizations throughout the United States that are committed to informing and encouraging girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Many programs in Wisconsin are supported by the NGCP.

In Kathryn Scott’s book The Help, nanny Aibileen Clark tells her young charge over and over again: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” These are powerful words to a young girl. What are you doing to help your daughter see herself as kind, smart and important?

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