Encouraging Girls in STEAM Education

“For whatever reason, I didn’t succumb to the stereotype that science wasn’t for girls. I got encouragement from my parents. I never ran into a teacher or a counsellor who told me that science was for boys. A lot of my friends did.”

—Sally Ride (Physicist, astronaut, and first American women in space)

As technology advances, STEAM education has an increasing importance and parents are more aware with the need to incorporate STEAM into their children’s education. For the longest time, we have been told that the science and engineering subjects or careers are masculine domains. Gender stereotyping had caused the underrepresentation of women in the STEAM industry which is a great loss in productivity.

In 2017, a study by The Women’s Foundation of Hong Kong was conducted on factors influencing adolescent girls’ choice of STEM subjects.  It was revealed that girls’ decision to pursue STEM is significantly influenced by their early experiences with the subject area, and their perception of their own capabilities, interests and career aspirations. Many girls also limit their own choices because of their own gender biases, they also believe that STEM is not suitable for girls. All of these ideas are heavily shaped by the girls’ family, schools, and the society.

Here are what parents can do to guide their aspiring young girls to develop their confidence in STEAM subjects:

1. Start Early

If we want to motivate capable girls to pursue STEAM education, we need to start early in their academic journey, as early as pre-school, before they have the chance to expose themselves to false gender stereotypes and biases. Parents are at great advantage when it comes to observing their own children. Look for certain behaviour that showcase curiosity, such as questions of how something works, interest in observing the natural world, or even playing with Siri, etc.  If you notice your daughter expressing interest in STEAM topics at a young age, try to engage her in more scientific conversations. Enroll your girls in STEAM-related extracurricular activities to help them gain hands-on experience and develop a problem-solving mindset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

According to a Stanford University study, it was observed that girls are more likely to believe that intelligence is a gift they are born with rather than an ability that can be developed over time.  Parents can help our daughters become better learners by emphasizing the importance of the learning process. Encourage your daughter to ask more questions and let her know that it is perfectly acceptable to not have the answers. Celebrate the mistakes your daughter makes and reassure her that she will learn more from her failures than her successes. The main takeaway from the attempts should be the problem-solving process and not the result.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Connect to Role Models

Real life examples of successful women in STEAM may inspire and motivate girls to learn more about STEAM. Role models and mentors will widen the girls’ vision of what is possible in their own lives. Introduce role models with your girls through reading biographies, news, or watching TV shows that feature female figures in STEAM industries. Try to connect your daughter to friends or family that work in STEAM industries and let them have conversations that may help your girls to understand more on the topic. It will be very effective to encourage girls to learn from role models that will positively impact them as they grow.

 

 

 

 

4. Break the Gender Stereotype in Toys

Finding the perfect toy for a child can be a challenge. Do not hesitate to purchase traditionally “masculine” toys that help with developing spatial and engineering skills. The best STEAM toys will always be the kind that offer a wide range of opportunities at varying levels of difficulty. Pick toys that involve designing, building, and constructing with creativity.