It goes without saying that females are underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. As we progress further into the 21st Century, this presents a real problem that educators and employers need to address. A lot has been said in the past decade about pay gaps and gender inequality in the workplace and making meaningful changes in STEM-related work environments can help bridge this gap. In neighbouring New York state, there are over 34,000 job openings in Computer Science, that is 4.7 times the state average demand rate. Here in Canada, data shows that 70 percent of bachelor’s degree graduates in Engineering and Computer Information Science found employment in related industries. This is good news for individuals who are naturally STEM-minded, but is the system flawed? How can we make sure to pay close attention to girls in STEM?
Globally, female participation in STEM-related careers are drastically lower than that of males, despite more women graduating from universities worldwide. The World Economic Forum maintains the following: “The reasons for this systematic underrepresentation are multiple and complex, but three things seem to matter most:
1) Aspirations that are molded by social norms and parental expectations
2) Information failures that affect the decision to enter and stay in a STEM field
3) Institutional factors that constrain women’s ability to enter a STEM job.”
Educators have the most control over numbers two and three, but can also help influence social norms and parental expectations as they relate to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. That being said, elevating girls in STEM education should not result in diminishing boys interest in the same topics.
FIRST, the parent organizations of the FLL (First Lego League), has launched the Elevating Girls and Young Women in STEM initiative. Rowntree Montessori Schools is proud to participate in the FLL yearly and recently won the FIRST Core Values Award at the 2017 Provincial Qualifier. FIRST maintains that the, “initiative focuses on the advancement of girls and women in STEM, but it is not exclusionary of the contributions of boys,[o]r men..” What is unique about this program is that it focuses on the inclusion that is so vitally needed in STEM education, helping to drive more diverse thought, innovation and creativity across STEM fields.
In the last five years, we have seen technology absolutely explode in K-12 education. Not only do students have more access to technology than they ever did before, but they are learning how to use it in ways that were previously reserved for the college-level computer lab. Additionally, a number of companies are jumping on the EdTech bandwagon and introducing new and exciting high-tech, low-tech, and no-tech ways for young people to learn code. RMS’s Motto: Nurturing Tomorrow’s Achievers, recognizes that successful students of the future include all the boys and girls currently doing great things at our four campuses. We want to ensure that all students have a fair and equal shot at doing great things with STEM. As an organization, we recognize that this can only be achieved if we work together to create an environment where science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is genuinely intertwined with what we do every single day. Rowntree Montessori Schools is excited about striving to be the best 21st Century learning institution that it can be, and has introduced a number of new initiatives this year to ensure that STEM is at the forefront of its students’ everyday experience, regardless of gender.
To read more about girls and STEM, click here for an interesting read from Forbes magazine!