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Anna Maria Chávez CEO


Girl Scouts of the USA www.girlscouts.org


FOCUS ON THE


WorkForce T


he development of the silicon microchip gave rise to our current digital age, and the global economy has been heavily dependent on science, technology, engi- neering, and mathematics (STEM) ever since. Over the past 10 years, STEM jobs grew three times faster than non-STEM jobs, and they are projected to continue to grow by 17% through 2018, compared to 9.8% for all other occupations. While STEM is growing by leaps and bounds, so is wom-


en’s involvement in the workforce. Today, 48% of the country’s workforce is comprised of women—a figure projected to grow even larger in the decades to come, as more than half of today’s college and masters level graduates are female.


With women poised to shape our economic future, and given the significance of STEM in today’s world, it’s more important than ever that we are preparing girls and young women with the skills they will need for a future in STEM. At the Girl Scouts, we have been on the cutting edge of girl leadership development for over 100 years, helping girls ac- quire the skills they need to lead their world. As STEM careers present new opportunities for the future, we set out to learn more about how girls feel about subjects like science and math, and how we could create a unique program tailored to their need and interests.


Our Girl Scout Research Institute conducted an in-depth study about girls’ attitudes towards STEM called Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineer- ing, and Math. The study found that teenage girls love STEM. Some 74% of high school girls across the country are inter- ested in STEM-related subjects.


102 ManufacturingEngineeringMedia.com | June 2014


Engineering the Future for Women in Science


This runs counter to some of the negative stereotypes that persist about girls and their interests in things scien- tific or mathematical. Yet when you delve deeper into the numbers, you realize that although interest in STEM is high, few girls consider it their number one career choice. In fact, STEM careers don’t crack the top tier of career choices for young women.


There are several reasons for this. Girls are acutely aware of the gender barriers—57% say that if they went into a STEM field, they’d have to work harder than a man just to be taken seriously. The classroom is where girls receive the bulk of their exposure to STEM.


Our study—”Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math”—found that teenage girls love STEM. Some 74% of high school girls across the country are interested in STEM-related subjects.


Unfortunately, we know that the classroom can also be an intimidating place, where girls sometimes succumb to peer pressures or stereotypes about girls in STEM. In fact, our study found that 47% of girls say they would feel uncomfort- able being the only girl in a school group focused on STEM. The result is while record numbers of girls are expressing interest, too few are considering a STEM field for a career— and that’s a problem for everyone who cares about the future of our economy and our world. In order to create gender bal- ance in the STEM workforce and foster the innovative thinking we will need to power our future, we need to actively encour- age girls to pursue their interests and abilities in STEM. Girl Scouting provides an out-of-school, all-girl envi- ronment where girls can be themselves—where they are uninhibited by the social pressures they can face in a formal, mixed-gender classroom environment—and where they are free to experiment and explore.

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