Why encourage girls about STEM?
First, because in contrast to so many female-dominated occupations where pay is lower than average, 93 of the top 100 STEM related occupations are paying wages much higher than the national average. In addition, there are inevitably certain biases that enter into even supposedly “objective” fields like science and technology. An example is for many years, industrial designers, because they were mostly able-bodied, middle-class men, designed products mostly for able-bodied, middle-class men. More women in science, technology, engineering and math will inevitably add their varying female perspectives, making these fields and their applications more responsive, responsible and relevant to women, girls, and the world including men at large, This benefits us all.
Use storytelling to get girls excited about STEM
Children (boys and girls alike) are sponges for good stories, and when there are bedtime stories not only revolving around daring escapades and fantasy worlds but also scientists and robots that help change our reality, they are able to become a lot more excited about STEM fields from a young age.
As a parent, look into many of the popular children’s books that have a science slant to them. Tell stories about new technology being showcased in the news, and help them to create imaginary worlds that they themselves feel like they can bring to reality through the power of science, math, and technology.
Get them excited about building
Toy sales may be down across the board for children of all ages as playtime becomes part of the digital realm, but there’s something about getting girls excited about building things – with Lego sets, Lincoln logs, and modern versions of the two – that can help turn playtime into something much more physical and tangible.
You don’t necessarily have to get your hands on STEM focus toys, either to help girls build during playtime. Encourage them to fiddle around with new Raspberry Pi devices and Arduino. Show them how to program their own robots (robot pets are particularly exciting when girls are young). And very importantly show them how to make the most of the digital technology around them so that they feel more ownership over their world – while getting excited about everything STEM has to offer.
Nature and biology
You can also get your little girl excited about biology, zoology, botany or geology when you’re taking a walk outdoors or on vacations. Point out the birds and their songs, the insects, frogs, lizards, flowers, trees and other plants, and the deer and other animals or the rocks. Notice what her special interests are and then buy and check out books that reflect them.
Find female role models they can get excited about
The media that young girls are exposed to has a transformative impact on the kinds of role models that they seek to emulate, and it’s important that you do everything you can to find female STEM role models – real life or cartoon, it makes little difference at this stage of the game – that they can get excited about. Thankfully there are more female role models in media for children today than ever before. Plus there’s always the stand-by pioneers like Rachel Carson and Marie Curie.
Support their passion in school
Once they’re in middle or high school and focused on one of the STEM fields, and they want to get an edge in class or take an AP class, you might consider hiring a science tutor or math tutor that will help them excel.