Generation STEM

Several impressive speakers helped introduce the Girls Scout’s latest research report, “Generation STEM, What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math,” at an event held at the expansive offices of The New York Academy of Sciences in downtown Manhattan. None was more impressive, however, than Erin Harding, a 15-year-old Girl Scout with Girl Scouts of Nassau County in New York.

Erin is a sophomore in high school, has been a Girl Scout for 11 years and is hoping to pursue a career in engineering. She is also the lead robot programmer for the Icebreakers, a second-year FIRST Tech Challenge team that managed to get to the FIRST World’s Competition two years in a row.

She spoke eloquently about how girls and boys view STEM differently. Her point was that the difference between boys’ perception of STEM and girls’ perception of STEM stems (no pun intended) from the way STEM is presented differently to boys than to girls. This is the reason boys tend to perceive STEM more favorably than girls. To boys, STEM is presented as a right of passage, but to girls as something unique. Not a bad analysis for a 15-year old.

Other speakers at the conference said:

  • Megham Groome, the director of the K-12 Science Education Initiative at the New York Academy of Sciences: “Knowing career opportunities matters. Parents matter. Role models matter.”
  •  Toni Hoover, senior vice president and director of the Pfizer Connecticut Research and Development Laboratories: “Girls want to make a difference in the world.”
  • Kamla Modi, a research and outreach analyst with the Girl Scouts Research Institute: “The father-daughter connection is very important.”

The report summary: “A high number of teen girls are interested in STEM fields and subjects, and are drawn by the creative and hands-on aspects that characterize these fields. Those who are interested in STEM have well-developed internal assets, such as high level of confidence in their abilities and the ability to overcome obstacles. Many have high levels of adult support and encouragement to pursue STEM careers and have been exposed to what STEM careers have to offer, but some do not. Many girls aspire to STEM careers, but aren’t necessarily choosing STEM careers as their first choice at this time. Girls are interested in making a difference in the world and need more STEM exposure, education, and experience with the help of key adults in their lives in order to see how STEM fields can achieve their goals now and in the future.”

Through the Girl Scout Research Institute, the Girls Scouts survey different topics impacting the lives of girls. To read the full report, “Generation STEM, What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math,” click here.

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The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

April 2012

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