Inside: Encouraging girls in science is so important in today’s world. Both at home and in school, girls need to know that science is worth the extra work. It is a fun, worthwhile pursuit that they are perfectly capable of accomplishing as well as and often better than their male counterparts.
We Need to Encourage Girls in Science
Encouraging girls in science is so important for the world today. Women bring a different viewpoint to the science issues our biosphere presently faces. Disease control, biodiversity, climate change can all benefit from new approaches.It is agreed, I think by all, that we need to encourage girls in science. But first we need to understand the reasons for these differences. Click To Tweet
There is no difference in the ability of boys and girls to tackle STEM subjects. But there is still a huge gap in the number of girls who obtain degrees in engineering, math and physics. Statistics show that women in the U.S. receive fewer than 20% of Bachelor’s degrees in computer science, engineering and physics. They are not greatly represented in the other sciences either, nor in math. Education experts are eagerly looking for ways to bridge this gap.
It is agreed, I think by all, that we need to encourage girls in science. But first we need to understand the reasons for these differences in order to solve the problem and come up with effective ways to drive change.
“…for both sexes, math has the strongest masculinity attribution, followed by physics as second, and, finally, chemistry with the lowest masculinity attribution.” — Makarova, Elena, Belinda Aeschlimann and Walter Herzog
Left Brain, Right Brain Myths
Science has been considered primarily a left brain strength. It used to be taken for granted that the left brain was the analytical side while the right brain was the creative center. People were thought to be either right or left brain thinkers. In particular, girls were thought to be stronger right brain thinkers while boys were considered better left brain thinkers. New evidence puts this old thinking in doubt:
Whether you’re performing a logical or creative function, you’re receiving input from both sides of your brain. For example, the left brain is credited with language, but the right brain helps you understand context and tone. The left brain handles mathematical equations, but right brain helps out with comparisons and rough estimates. — Healthline.com
Many of us do lean towards one way of thinking – analytical or more creative. Take this brain test, for fun, to find out if you are primarily what was considered left-brained, right-brained or a little bit of both. I took it and apparently I use both my analytical and creative thinking skills about equally. And I did get a bachelor’s degree in science. Where would science be without those of us who think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions?
Below are eight ways to encourage girls to get into science.
1. Encourage Girls in Science by Fostering Positive Attitudes to Girls in Science and Math Electives
Encouraging girls in science requires that we put a positive spin on STEM subjects. As students move up from elementary school to middle and high school, they have a number of choices of what to take. Girls tend to be pushed into arts subjects and don’t always get a chance to do chemistry or physics. If there is an accelerated program for math and science, they often get passed over, even when their grades are as good if not better than the boys. Even if this is not the case, science is usually thought of as much harder than other subjects. We need to make science fun so both boys and girls think of it in a positive way. Making it more hands on and relating science to the everyday life of girls is a great way to encourage them to keep taking science subjects.
2. Make it Acceptable for Girls to be Smart in Science
Peers often label smart girls “geeks,” and therefore different from other girls, even less desirable. The school and society as a whole need to applaud and reward academic ability and not just try to churn out girls who are “nice” and people-pleasers. Girls need to be applauded for asking questions including the tough ones that may go against what most people think of as correct.
3. Allow Girls to Learn from Their Mistakes
Even when girls are allowed to enroll in math and science subjects, at the first hint of a problem, they are often encouraged to drop the course and take something easier. But very few people have ever learned to ride a bicycle on the first attempt. Some students take longer than others to grasp concepts. It is also the teacher’s job to support every student in their class who is struggling, not write them off and encourage them to take non science classes. Mistakes are a big part of science anyway. Let girls know this. Scientists learn from their mistakes. That’s how the scientific process works. Ideas and thinking change and progress as new information is found including both stuff that is found to be correct as well as thinking that is found to be wrong.
4. Encourage Girls to Be More Career Orientated
A lot of boys know what they want to be when they grow up, either through their own choice, or that of pushy parents who want a son who is a doctor or engineer. If girls are interested in those careers, especially engineering, they may somehow be seen as freaks of nature. But the only way to get into those careers is through studying the right subjects. Girls in high school and college should focus on what classes will help them achieve their goals and cut out the fluff.
5. Go for AP
An Advanced Placement course in physics or calculus will be difficult, true, but it can also give college or university credits and a head-start on a degree without having to pay tuition. If girls are capable of handling the pressure these classes are a good way of getting recognized by their top school choices.
6. Offer Separate Classes for Boys and Girls
Some schools have actually started to offer single-sex classes in science and math because boys and girls are seen to learn differently, and often struggle with society’s attitudes to them studying these subjects. Without the teasing and gender role playing found in mixed sex classrooms, girls are more likely to focus on the subject matter. They are less likely to be intimated and drop out of the courses. There have been some positive results, with some all-girl classes actually outperforming co-ed classes and even the boys’ classes.
7. Expose Them to Role Models
Schools can invite alumni back, or local professional women who can talk about how they reached their goals in life and attained their careers. By bringing in role models, schools are encouraging girls in science. The more models for success girls have, the more encouraged they will become that they can be successful in science, math and technology too.
8. Create an Environment that Promotes Science and Make it Fun
Make science important in your own home right from the birth of your girl. Let her play in puddles, explore nature and play with building blocks and chemistry sets. Schools need to promote science in as many aspects of the day as possible. Include it in reading and physical education. Have science fairs where kids are encouraged to ask questions and put together experiments to test their predictions. In both elementary and high school make science fun by making it as hands on as possible. Most kids learn better by doing. Girls are no different. Encourage friendly competitions in classroom science.
9. Offer Additional Help
Parents can pay for additional tutoring, or perhaps an online course. Teachers can give lunchtime and after-school support, where girls can ask questions informally. A science club is always a fun way to engage students and can foster a real love of science.
These ideas can make a real difference to girls’ attitudes to science, as well as to society’s attitude to girls studying science. Encouraging girls in science is so important to the well-being of society and our planet. It is important to have well-rounded ideas. Boys and girls have different ideas about the world. Both perspectives need to be represented. If you have a daughter or niece, encourage them to love science. Participate with them, especially when they are young. Make them understand that being smart is more than ok, it is beautiful.
Read these other posts in the Importance of Science Series:
- How to Motivate Kids to Love Science
- Why We Need More Scientists…Our Survival Depends on Them
- 19 Exciting Jobs Which Require Science Qualifications
- 9 Critical Problems Faced by Science Teachers You Need to Know
- 9 Ways a Parent Can Encourage Interest in Science
- 21 Online and Subscription Resources to Get Your Child into Science