Written by: Reagan Flowers, PhD
For years, there has been a noticeable gender gap in STEM fields, both in higher education and professions. Why is that? A more up-close and personal look reveals one of the culprits as being negative stereotypes. Further, there is also the issue of accessibility to STEM opportunities and how they are communicated to young girls in their homes, schools, churches, and communities.
Children are impressionable and more inclined to being heavily influenced by the beliefs and viewpoints of adults in their lives. Assertions have been made that differences in expectations of boys and girls by individuals whom they respect is quite noticeable. For example, STEM is ridiculously believed to be hard, filled with masculine work tasks, and require minimal creativity; that is simply not the case. In fact, some of the drivers in STEM industries are creative thinking, problem-solving, innovation, and communication, which is how new technology, systems, and processes are developed. According to Mae Jemison, the first African American woman astronaut in space, girls should not let anyone rob them of their imagination, creativity, or curiosity.
One thing we know for certain, is that powerful women in STEM never back down from pursuing their passions and leave behind a legacy that continues to move women into STEM fields. Nichelle Nichols, former NASA Ambassador and Star Trek actress said it best, “Science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girl’s game. It’s everyone’s game.”
Today, social factors play an enormous role in the way females perceive their capabilities in the workplace. A common stereotype is that females do not have the same intellect or grit as males. An individual’s capabilities are expandable, not static. A point that must be emphasized when teaching and leading girls. It is important that parents, teachers, church leaders, and mentors are conscious of their implicit bias when encouraging girls and boys to explore and experience opportunities. A growth mindset requires eliminating misguided and limiting stereotypes of females that discourage the pursuit of STEM careers. Girls should be allowed to be just as messy and adventurous as boys. The world holds a place for girls in STEM and it leads to a fabulous life. It is important that girls move forward with their STEM talents and have fun in the process.
Let’s encourage girls to work hard, fail fast, and play hard! After all, girls dust off just as nice as the boys.