How can we motivate girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics? Inspire Africa has the answer:

We all know that the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics worlds have been, and are, dominated by males, with research indicating, country and culture dependant, that women only account for 10-25% of the workforce in STEM positions.

Largely the gender bias is a result of these fields being considered boys subjects and this widely held stereotype encourages thinking that boys have a greater innate STEM ability than girls, and it is stated as impacting on girl’s performance in these subjects. According to Alicia Chang writer for Educational Content Lead, girls “as young as seven have been shown to underperform on math tasks when their gender has been made salient. Furthermore, several studies have found that children are socialized differently regarding mathematics based on gender. Boys tend to receive more encouragement in math from parents and teachers, and mothers overestimate boys’ abilities compared to girls’. When discussing an interactive exhibit at a science museum, parents have been found to explain scientific concepts three times more often to boys than girls. And even at very young ages, children tend to receive gender-specific toys that may promote STEM skills such as building or spatial reasoning more to boys.” And if we add the lack of female role-models in the STEM workforce, be that in reality or in media focus, where lies the encouragement?

How do we enable gender diversity, what would motivate more girls to take on STEAM subjects?

The opportunity is likely found in one simple statement: girls are known to have a strong motivation to change the world.  According to a Forbes report a “study conducted by Microsoft found that 72% of the girls polled said it was important for them to have jobs that directly helped the world, but only 37% thought of STEM careers as being creative or making the world better.”

Drawing a relationship between helping the world and STEAM, helping girls see how utilizing STEAM can make the world a better place, may be the answer as these careers are a powerful means to this end.

Considering where life will be a decade from now and one thing is clear, a career in STEAM has much to offer girls, the opportunity to shape our world and job security in the 4th Industrial Revolution – a time that will not stop growing and changing. Evolving. Ever.

Today we read there is a predicted x amount of STEAM jobs by 2030.  One can’t say for sure that any predictions will be accurate, save to say that we can expect numbers to evolve in tandem with the evolution of STEAM itself.  As we develop AI, IoT, AR and the industries that support this, more and more jobs will become available.  And keep becoming available with innovation.  STEAM and innovation are hand to the glove.

Girls will be working in, and creating, jobs we have not dreamed of yet.  And they can change the world like woman such as Trachette Jackson, Slyvia Earle and Goldwasser, who are defining new paths forward in their STEAM fields.

Professor Trachette L. Jackson, at the University of Michigan specializing in mathematical oncology, is using math to understand and one day slow the growth of tumors. Forbes.

Chief Scientist, and the first female to hold the position, Sylvia Earle, at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has “led more than a hundred deep-sea expeditions, been deemed a living legend by the Library of Congress, and is now dedicating her efforts to protecting the oceans by countering climate change and supporting sustainability.” Forbes

Shafi Goldwasser is redefining cryptography and data privacy in the 21st century and co-conceived of the zero-knowledge proof, a method by which one person can prove to another that a given statement is true without divulging any other information. Forbes report.

In short, the creative and problem-solving in STEAM appeals to girls, and when attached to creating a better world, making a change, making a difference, affording them the introduction to role models, woman pioneering in STEAM positions, will create a tangible relationship between the theory of STEAM opportunity and what it can be used to achieve.  Girls need to know about the STEAM careers out there for them that can birth their own individual innovation.  The more STEAM careers they learn about the more there is for them to choose from.

According to an article by Royal Gazette “Research has shown that believing in the potential for intellectual growth, having confidence in one’s abilities and believing that hard work and effort can increase intelligence are associated with higher achievement in maths and science among girls.”

Growing girls in STEAM requires nurturing a growth-mindset in them with a certain knowledge that they have equal innate ability to expand on, presenting career STEAM opportunities to them, and highlighting that with STEAM they can make a powerful difference in the world.  #STEAMforGirls

STEAM jobs are fascinating.  They ignite innovation.

While we are making great inroads with gender diversity, these are six jobs published by Career Building (with supporting research) in STEM careers that have higher percentages of women than in others, and while not specific to SA, they do paint an interesting picture.  Click job title links for South African jobs currently available and view qualifications et al.

Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Counselling psychologists advise people on how to deal with problems. School psychologists apply psychological principles and techniques to education-related and developmental issues.
Percentage of women: 68 percent expected to increase 11 percent by 2022.
Education: Doctoral/professional degree

Epidemiologists are public health professionals who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans.
Percentage of women: 53 percent expected to increase 10 percent by 2022.
Education: Master’s degree required

Physical scientists conduct research tasks within a chosen field of study. Sample job titles include chemist, biochemist, astronomer, geologist, physiologist, environmental scientist and physicist.
Percentage of women: 41 percent expected to increase 5 percent by 2022.
Education: Bachelor’s degree

Statisticians use statistical methods to collect and analyze data and help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, the sciences or other fields.
Percentage of women: 41 percent expected to increase 27 percent by 2022.
Education: Master’s degree

Database administrators use specialized software to store and organize data, such as financial information and customer shipping records.
Percentage of women: 38 percent expected to increase 15 percent by 2022.
Education: Bachelor’s degree

Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems.
Percentage of women: 26 percent expected to increase 15 percent by 2022.
Education: Bachelor’s degree

Click here to check out IdTech’s list of Futuristic STEM Jobs

Are you a STEAM educator?  Click here to join our Inspire S.T.E.A.M. Facebook Group and share your ideas and insights with other educators. Let’s collaborate for the future.

Looking for ways to excite your students about STEAM classes? Click here and check out our Inspire S.T.E.A.M. programme that uses drone technology to bring these subjects alive.

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