In today’s rapidly changing digital age, there is an increasing demand for children to be well-versed in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
With a growing demand for technological skills in almost every field, a strong STEM and coding foundation is critical for the future workforce.
Moreover, even though coding is essential for all children to learn, the gender gap in STEM remains a persistent issue.
Therefore, promoting and fostering STEM education and careers is crucial for both boys and girls, particularly encouraging girls to pursue these fields, from computer programmers, web developers and engineers, data scientists, and more.
Regarding technology, it might surprise you that women are often behind the creation of the very cool gadgets, devices, apps, and services you use every day.
While women frequently take a back seat in the annals of tech history, the truth is that they have been vital players just as long as men have. Today, estimates show that women comprise 26.7 percent (or less) of the industry.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it’s essential to recognize the significance of women in STEM fields. This article will examine the influence of encouraging STEM education, especially coding, at an early age for girls. It will highlight the importance of this approach for all girls and its potential impact on their future to get more opportunities for well-paying jobs in tech.
History of Women in STEM
Women have made significant contributions to STEM fields. Ada Lovelace was a groundbreaking mathematician and writer best known for her contributions to Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.
Her most significant contribution to computing was the development of an algorithm for the Analytical Engine, widely regarded as the first computer program ever written.
This achievement was all the more impressive given that Lovelace was a woman living in a time when women were discouraged from pursuing careers in science or mathematics.
Her work helped to lay the groundwork for modern computing and continues to inspire future generations of women in STEM.
An African-American mathematician, Katherine Johnson was a brilliant mathematician and physicist who contributed significantly to NASA’s space program.
She was part of a group of African-American women known as “human computers” who calculated the complex mathematical formulas required for space travel.
Johnson’s work on the trajectory for the first human-crewed spaceflight was critical to the mission’s success. She went on to work on numerous other projects at NASA throughout her career.
Despite facing discrimination and prejudice as a woman of color working in a male-dominated field, Johnson remained dedicated to her work and inspired generations of women and people of color to pursue STEM careers.
Despite these and other accomplishments, women have historically been underrepresented in STEM fields, with men outnumbering women in almost every STEM field.
Outside of this commemorative month, it is critical to recognize women’s achievements in this and many other areas to inspire the next generation of women in STEM.
STEM Initiatives for Women
According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women constitute only 28% of the STEM workforce. As they progress through school, girls tend to lose interest in STEM subjects, with only 0.4% of high school girls interested in computer science degrees.
This disparity limits women’s career opportunities and hinders the potential for innovation and progress in the field.
In addition to being a matter of gender equality, the underrepresentation of women in STEM areas has adverse economic effects. According to McKinsey & Company research, increasing gender diversity in the workforce could boost the world economy by $12 trillion by 2025.
In addition, a National Science Foundation study also discovered that businesses with more diverse workforces frequently experience higher financial returns and are more creative.
Despite these challenges, many organizations and initiatives are working to promote girls’ participation in STEM education and careers.
Tynker’s mission is to provide every child with a solid foundation in computer science, programming, and critical thinking skills to prepare them to become better architects of their future world.
Their award-winning curriculum is used in more than 100,000 schools worldwide to ensure that, by 2033, every high school graduate has been exposed to some formal coding education.
Tynker coding courses for kids are intentionally designed to be engaging and accessible for all children, regardless of gender. Tynker offers a variety of classes and projects that cater to a range of interests, including music, art, games, and storytelling.
Additionally, Tynker actively promotes diversity and inclusion in its courses, showcasing female role models in technology and highlighting the contributions of women in the field.
Tynker also offers courses and projects specifically geared towards girls, such as the “Ada’s Adventure” course and the “Women in Computing” project. These courses focus on empowering girls to pursue careers in technology and showcase female leaders in the industry.
Girls Who Code
Girls Who Code is a nonprofit organization founded in 2012 by Reshma Saujani to close the gender gap in technology by providing young girls with computer science education.
The organization offers free coding education to girls in grades 3-12 through summer immersion programs, after-school clubs, and other initiatives.
Since its founding, Girls Who Code has reached more than 500 million girls across the United States and expanded its reach to other countries worldwide.
The impact of Girls Who Code on women in STEM is significant. According to their website, 90% of Girls Who Code alumni say that they have been inspired to pursue a career in technology due to their participation in the program.
In addition, Girls Who Code alums are also 15 times more likely to pursue computer science in college than the national average.
Another initiative, Code.org, is a nonprofit organization that offers free coding education to students of all ages, focusing on promoting girls’ participation in coding.
The organization’s programs include curriculum and training for K-12 teachers, online courses and resources for students, and community outreach initiatives.
Code.org’s impact on promoting girls’ participation in coding is significant. According to their website, in 2019, 45% of their students were girls.
Code.org’s Hour of Code program has also reached over 100 million girls worldwide, exposing them to computer science and coding basics. More than half of Code.org’s college-level computer science students are women, compared to a national average of just 20%.
Impacts of Women in STEM
Beyond the success of the women themselves on a personal and professional level, there are numerous advantages for women in STEM areas. Society will gain when more women are inspired to seek STEM degrees and careers.
Technology, healthcare, energy, and environmental sustainability depend on advancing the STEM disciplines. Women can bring a variety of viewpoints to the area, resulting in more creative solutions to challenging issues.
Additionally, promoting female participation in STEM disciplines can aid in reducing the gender wage gap, a problem that has persisted in the workplace. The National Women’s Law Center reported that in 2020, women in the United States made just 82 cents for every dollar males earn.
However, women in STEM typically make more money compared to other occupations. According to a National Science Foundation study, women in STEM make 33% more money than women in non-STEM professions. The gender wage gap can be narrowed by increasing the proportion of women working in STEM areas.
A lack of diversity in STEM disciplines can also result in a narrow focus on the problems and difficulties that particular groups of people face.
For instance, a lack of female researchers in the medical field can lead to a lack of knowledge about women’s health problems. Increasing the number of women in STEM can contribute to the field’s diversity of views and experiences, resulting in more inclusive research and innovation.
What Parents Can Do
Women’s History Month is an excellent opportunity to consider women’s contributions to STEM fields and draw attention to the need for more diversity and inclusion.
Parents and teachers can use various tools to promote girls’ involvement in STEM education and careers and introduce them to female role models working in the area.
By giving their daughters access to STEM-related activities and tools, such as attending talks, workshops, and networking events that highlight the achievements of women in STEM, parents can also inspire their daughters to pursue their interests in these fields.
Many schools and libraries provide STEM resources and activities for kids and teenagers, sometimes free or at a reduced cost to families.
Parents can play a vital role in encouraging their daughters to pursue STEM by embracing their hobbies, regardless of gender norms.
For instance, if a daughter shows interest in coding or engineering, parents can provide access to resources like the ones above that allow girls to create digital games, animations, and more.
Children can work through these resources independently without requiring much assistance from parents with little STEM or coding experience.
Parents can create a nurturing environment at home that promotes their daughters’ interests in STEM by reinforcement of gender equality and inclusivity. This approach can help girls feel confident and empowered to pursue STEM fields without limitations.
Equal Access to the Top
Coding and STEM education are critical skills for children in the modern digital age, so encouraging girls to pursue STEM education and careers is vital.
By increasing girls’ access to STEM education and resources and highlighting women’s contributions to STEM disciplines, we can work to close the gender gap in STEM and create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
We look forward to the day when women and men are equally represented working in tech with equal access to a viable, successful career path to the top.
Also published on HACKERNOON