STEM Pipeline Blog / January 6, 2022
Girl Scouts: Helping to Create a Future of Girls in STEM
Girls underrepresented in STEM
Girl Scouts is very enthusiastic about introducing girls into the STEM space at a young age. According to the American Association of University of Women (AAUW) by the time students reach college, women are significantly underrepresented in STEM majors. The AAUW also found that Women only make up about 21% of Engineering majors and just 19% of Computer and Information Science majors. Why is there a gender gap? At first glance, you may think that girls must be “struggling” or “worse” at STEM activities starting from a young age, which slowly weeds more and more girls out of the STEM space. However, this is not true; national test data show that girls’ math test scores are equal to or within 2 points of boys’ scores in the fourth and eighth grade. Data also show that middle school girls pass algebra at a higher rate than boys. In high school, something shifts and a gender gap in participation starts to appear as girls take fewer of the more advanced STEM courses and tests as they get closer to college. This gap widens the longer girls are in school and is often compounded by issues of race and class.
Four Strategies to Help Get More Girls Interested & Participating in STEM.
So how do we go about trying to fix this gender gap? Girl Scouts employs four strategies to help get more girls interested and participating in STEM. Girl Scouts focuses on STEM interest (girls are excited about STEM subjects and want to learn more), STEM confidence (girls have confidence in their STEM skills and abilities), STEM competence (girls think scientifically to solve problems), and STEM value (girls learn the importance and relevance of STEM to people in society).
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has put together some key tasks that need to be done in order to close this gap. These tasks coincide well with the strategies that Girl Scouts employs. The American Association of University Women recommends to avoid creating math anxiety and ensure boys and girls are held to the same standards, known in the Girl Scout plan as STEM confidence. The AAUW also recommends encouraging girls and women to take math and science classes, known as STEM interest in the Girl Scout plan. AAUW recommends teaching girls of color math through open-ended and co-created problem posing and discovery, known as STEM competence in the Girl Scout plan. Lastly, AAUW recommends increasing awareness of higher education and career opportunities, pathway opportunities, role models and mentoring programs with women in STEM for girls. Also known as STEM value in the Girl Scouts plan.
For the past 6 years (excluding 2020), Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan has partnered with Saginaw Valley State University to put on an all-day STEM event called STEMapalooza. The event incorporates all four of the Girl Scout strategies to close the gender gap in the STEM space. STEMapalooza is designed to get girls interested in STEM (STEM Interest) through working with female led STEM clubs at the University (STEM Value). Girl Scouts coordinates with the director of STEM at SVSU to help decide which clubs will be hosting the event as well as leading the Girl Scouts in the activities. In the past, girls worked with the Women in Engineering Club and the Biology Club. This year the Chemistry Club will be hosting the event and creating experiments focused around chemistry, biology, STEAM (STEM + art), and engineering. All of the activities done at STEMapalooza are meant to show girls that STEM is something they could be interested in as well as a topic where they can excel (STEM confidence and STEM competence). Some of
the experiments done in past years included: making elephant toothpaste, coding, making lip gloss, VR, and hydroponic farming.
Girl Scouts in STEM
There is a gender gap in the STEM community, but following the recommendations of the AAUW on how to close the gap is a great place to start. Girl Scouts believes in closing the gap and is following the recommendations from the AAUW through different patches and other programs and events like STEMapalooza. If you are interested in having your girl try a STEM activity with Girl Scouts, here are some of the STEM programs that we have coming up. For additional information go to gshom.org/events.
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