Women have been undervalued and underrepresented in STEM fields for too long. Despite decades of efforts to increase numbers, women still only occupy about ¼ of STEM careers.
The issue is that we have been trying to solve the problem too late in life. Representing women in science, technology, engineering, and math starts with raising girls to become a part of those fields. Studies have found that the majority of girls become interested in science or math around age 11, but that interest fades by 15. Why? Because there is a serious lack of female role models within these fields, leaving girls of our generation without any path to follow in pursuing the topics they love. When I was in elementary school, I almost always imagined a mathematician as a socially awkward man with gray hair and glasses. Whenever a doctor, engineer, or scientist came into my school to talk about their life and job, they had one thing in common — they were all men.
The All Girls Stem Society is an inclusive learning space where girls can learn about subjects they are passionate about like programming, magnetism, circuitry, and aerospace. At the beginning of every workshop, the girls learn about a famous woman in STEM who has paved the way for them.
However, I believe that the people who truly inspire the participants are the volunteers. I have seen firsthand how a simple explanation or activity can teach the girls and how the passion of every volunteer at the workshops is palpable. One of my favorite things about the organization is that it is almost completely student-run, so fifth and sixth-graders have role models who are just a few years older than them to look up to. While not every girl we teach will become a scientist or engineer, AGSS gives girls the opportunity to explore and see role models in STEM subjects they are passionate about.
We volunteers can inspire the girls by example.