Girls Scouts of the USA and STEM: Guest Post

Kamla Modi and Joanne Berg of Girl Scouts describe the need for STEM for girls, and highlight some of their amazing programs.  

Imagine a generation of girls and women pursuing STEM careers!

With STEM careers growing at five times the rate of other occupations, it’s clear we need to get girls involved in science, technology, engineering and math. By 2018, nine out of the 10 fastest growing jobs in the United States will require significant training in science and math. Girls who choose a career in STEM can earn 26% more than those in other fields!

The Girl Scout Research Institute recently conducted a study, Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, which shows that most girls find STEM interesting and see themselves as “smart enough to have a career in STEM.” While that’s great news, there’s a catch—only 13 percent of girls interested in STEM plan to choose a career in it.

Why is there a disconnect? Here is what Generation STEM revealed about what girls need in order to further their interests and ultimately pursue STEM careers:

  • Girls have limited exposure to hands-on STEM activities. While 72% of girls enjoy hands-on STEM activities, only 27% get to engage in these kinds of activities outside of school. Hands-on activities are where the science comes alive. This is where girls get to play, innovate, experiment, hypothesize, make mistakes, and learn something new.
  • There are few females who are scientists as role models in girls’ lives. And girls are unaware of those role models who do exist; 46% of girls know a woman in a STEM career. Without the presence of female role models in exciting and innovative STEM careers, it is easy for girls to perceive a stereotypical scientist or engineer, who is male, white, and appears nothing like them!
  • Girls are unaware of career opportunities in science, engineering, technology and math. Only 45% of girls know a lot about their career options in STEM. Without knowing or fully understanding these career options, it becomes very easy to overlook them or assume that these options are “not for them”.
  • Girls are most interested in careers that “help people” and they don’t always make the connection to how STEM does just that. Most (88%) girls want to make a difference in the world, and want careers that help people (89%). We need to show girls that they can achieve their career motivations through STEM careers, rather than outside of STEM careers.

Girl Scouts is uniquely positioned to make a difference for girls in STEM. With 3.2 million members, and over 100 years’ experience helping girls, we can help them realize their leadership potential and discover the STEM careers they deserve.

These are exactly the reasons why Girl Scouts of the USA designed the Imagine Your STEM Future national activity series, which is designed to engage high school girls in and inspire them toward careers in STEM. The flexible in-school or after-school series provides fun, hands-on activities to help girls boost their math and science skills. It also gives girls information about careers, even targeting and directing their personal interests through questionnaires. And it allows girls to find out about the important women in STEM and how the work they do makes positive changes in the world. When asked, girls say that the program increased their interest in STEM, led them to become more informed about STEM careers, helped them realize how important it is to take math and science in school, strengthened their critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities, and increased their confidence in their STEM-related skills.

We know girls want to make a difference in the world and help people. One great example of this is a Girl Scout Robotics team, The Flying Monkeys that recently invented a prosthetic device for a little girl!   

To find out more about Girl Scouts’ and STEM opportunities check us out here!

Kamla Modi, PhD, is a research and outreach analyst with the Girl Scout Research Institute at Girl Scouts of the USA. She leads national research studies on issues affecting girls’ healthy development. Dr. Modi has extensive research, evaluation, and program experience in a variety of topical areas relevant to youth of all ages and diverse backgrounds, including education, health care, athletics, nutrition/wellness, extracurricular activities, and leadership development. She has presented research findings to a variety of audiences in government, education, industry, and youth development across the country, including The White House. She holds a PhD in applied developmental psychology from Fordham University and a BA from Rutgers University. She competed in Division One gymnastics at Rutgers and is currently coaching a girls’ high school gymnastics team in New York City.

 

Joanne Berg is Interim Executive Editor, Program Resources at Girl Scouts of the USA.