While in grade school, your daughter may show some strong interest and aptitude in STEM subjects. In recent years, researchers and educators have been pointing out what happens to this momentum toward a promising education and career in math, technology, engineering or mathematics: Their interest drops off around middle school.
Experts worry this nosedive has worrisome implications, keeping girls from pursuing and taking their rightful places in rewarding careers. While women are well-represented in the medical field, they make up only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce.
What are some of the underlying causes? Researchers discovered that social pressures can play a role, combined with a lack of role models and support for female students. One study uncovered that classroom environment can exclude other students from the classroom community, especially girls.
“The anecdotal actually does match up to what research is showing,” says Tracey Welson-Rossman, the founder of TechGirlz. “One, there’s not a lot of classes [available], two, it’s not interesting to the girls, the way that it’s being taught. And we hear this again and again and again that it’s boring, that they’re the only girls in the class.”
With these tips, support your daughter in the pursuit of STEM subjects in school. Even if she chooses a non-STEM career path, having that core knowledge can still make a positive difference on her future.
Look beyond the stereotypes
If your daughter is still in preschool or in the elementary grades, look beyond the stereotypes and choose toys that encourage hands-on building. Play with construction toys, such as LEGO Bricks. Such toys are found to develop spatial skills, which research has linked to better performance in math.
Search for role models at any age
Keep a radar out for people and their stories. Stories are important because they can help girls see a path to success, paths that defy the stereotypes. Check out books that talk about women who made a difference in STEM fields. Do you remember Take Your Daughter to Work Day? Along those lines, think of a relative or family friend who is a woman — or knows one — working in a STEM field. Arrange an onsite visit and informational interview on what she does and how she arrived at this career path.
Open the doors
If you’re a maker, get the kids, including daughters, into the shop and include them in your projects. (Fun fact: The founder of Bricks 4 Kidz, Michelle Cote, helped her father work on antique cars. His encouragement was a huge influence on her hands-on, creative childhood.) Ask them to come up with solutions to problems.
Look beyond the classroom to build knowledge
Learning doesn’t stop when school’s out, nor should it. Always keep an eye out for enriching activities. For example, a Bricks 4 Kidz workshop allows children ages 5-13 to build an architect-designed model that explores an engaging subject, such as space travel or underwater life. As they build (and play) with LEGO Bricks, they learn some aspect of science, math and engineering. We help girls (and boys) build their STEM skills in a fun, inclusive environment!