International Women’s Day has come and gone for another year (8 March) and sadly, the presence of women in the STEM industry is still considerably lower than their male counterparts. Today, 75% of jobs in the fastest growing industries require STEM skills.
STEM represents the culmination of science, technology, engineering and mathematical skills which have been foreseen to be the most employable skills in the future. Despite this, girls and women of the future may be deemed unemployable as a result of the most recent results from the STEM equity monitor.
Last year, only 27% of secondary school age girls aspired to be in STEM-related careers as opposed to their male counterparts with 42%.
At the time, the Minister for Industries, Science and Technology, Ms Andrews, stated that:
“This International Women's Day we are faced with an alarming prospect that a large number of our young girls and women could be unemployable.”
Why have Girls in STEM
Firstly, for many decades areas in this field has been male dominated and this is a trend still continuing today. This has left a gender gap in the STEM industries and this will not change unless girls are supported.
Bringing girls into the STEM industries will break the male stereotyping typically recognised by many in the field.
It will also generate a huge amount of diversification in terms of innovation in the field. This in turn, will improve the quality of the workforce and new innovation will help to boost the economy and bring about new opportunities in the industries that require a strong STEM experience in their employees.
Why is STEM important in Early Childhood Education for girls?
The role of early childhood education in establishing values and core beliefs in young children is widely known throughout countries today. In relation to STEM education, early experiences, conversations and memories matter.
Despite this, STEM education in early childhood has primarily focused on the “M” in STEM meaning just building on foundational numeracy skills, and also the “S” and placing priorities in learning around natural sciences.
However, the biggest gap which exists is the “T” and “E” part of STEM learning and this is the area where women are drastically needed and underrepresented.
The result being that the following set of skills associated with key traits of 21st century workforces are not strongly present:
- Computational thinking - Problem-solving, design and systematic analysis;
- Digital citizenship – being able to effectively use digital technology, especially so they can participate responsibly in social and civic activities;
- Technological literacy – having the ability to effectively use technology to access, manage, evaluate, create and communicate information.
We need girls in STEM to balance our future economy and workforce and by exposing girls to STEM early will enable them to imagine and dream about a range of careers they might have when they grow up. Early exposure to these above concepts will provide them with problem-solving skills, a sense of creativity, and self-confidence that will be useful to them in any industry in the future as 75% of the fastest growing industries require STEM-related skills.
Girls in STEM education in Primary Schools
By encouraging young girls in early childhood education to dream and be creative with STEM activities you will be promoting a flow-on effect into primary schools. This in turn, provided that girls are still actively encouraged at this age, will lead them to choose subjects related to STEM in secondary school.
This is where it will count for girls to aspire to become STEM ready and to start making their impact on the world of the future.
Encouraging Girls in STEM
Here are five ways which teachers can use (Monash University, 2020):
- Give girls the chance to talk about what STEM looks like to them.
- Find STEM role models that girls can relate to.
- Bust those stereotypes.
- Expose girls to a full range of STEM career options earlier on.
- Create a more balanced approach to STEM.
Parents can (Australian Government, 2020):
- Encourage questions.
- Offer a STEM-friendly home.
- Follow her interests.
- Talk the talk.
- Encourage your daughter to pursue maths, science, technology and engineering.