Girls in STEM an important cultural shift

Published 8:22 am Tuesday, August 22, 2017

partnership between the University of Kentucky and the Girl Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road Council to make STEM fields more accessible for girls has shed its requirement for participants to be Girl Scouts.

GEMS is a one-day program on Nov. 11 that offers girls an opportunity for hands-on learning about STEM fields. Now that the program is open, more young girls can be exposed to the plethora of job opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The program serves as a way to showcase career options many girls may not realize are available to them. With hands-on projects like working with a chemical engineer to develop their own lip gloss, designing and constructing a tower that will allow an egg to drop two stories and land on the ground without breaking and designing and programming robots to navigate a course during a Lego workshop, GEMS reveals that whatever your interest — from makeup to robotics — there are a wide variety of careers that require STEM skills.

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Historically, there has been a misconception that females aren’t as capable or skilled in these particular subjects as their male peers — that women aren’t as naturally-inclined to be successful in these careers. And women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields.

According to the UK’s College of Engineering website, women make up only 14 percent of the workforce in science and technology careers despite making up 52 percent of the overall workforce. Other research suggests in the U.S., women make-up only 37 percent of students studying for degrees in these subjects. Women make up about 40 percent of degrees in mathematics and only 18 percent of computer science degrees, according to Digital Journal.

Research has also proven that there is no difference between the brains of men and women that would suggest either sex has an advantage in these subjects.

Instead, these misconceptions are born of cultural and social stereotypes that need to be broken.

In recent years there has been a push — with programs similar to GEMS and even government-funded campaigns — to expose more young girls to the subjects and encourage them to consider careers in STEM fields.

It is important to invest in a strong and diverse STEM workforce because these are the individuals who invent, discover and perfect life-changing scientific advances. These professionals discover new medicines or surgical options. They create technology that makes life easier or more efficient. They conduct research that ensures the health and beauty products we use are safe and of the best quality.

Programs like GEMS and many others are implementing this cultural and societal rethinking at a very young age — just as it should be. Furthermore, opening the program up to girls who are not directly involved in Girl Scouts was a good move and one that has the potential to change many young girls’ paths in life.