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Closing the Gender Gap in STEM

Undeniably, STEM education in the U.S. is lagging behind other countries and there is growing momentum to remedy this situation.  As we create strategies for promoting STEM education, it is important to also be aware of the gender gap in STEM professions.  
Data shows that while women make up nearly 47 percent of the U.S. workforce, they represent less than 25 percent of STEM workers (2010 American Communities Survey).  One of the ways to meet the demand for STEM workers is to increase the number of women going into STEM fields. Indeed, the time has come for the “She-Geek.”
An infographic created for Online Colleges illustrates the stereotypes surrounding girls in STEM subjects and provides data to debunk these myths.  It also offers tips on how to close the gender gap and encourage girls in STEM:
•Expose them early and often
•Encourage participation in special programs
•Support learning opportunities in the community
•Match girls and women with mentors
•Show girls and young women how STEM subjects can be applied to solve real-world problems
It is essential to engage girls in STEM fields such as engineering to build their interest and comfort in moving into these male-dominated professions.  In a recent article, Roominate, a Toy to Push Girls Towards STEM Fields (The Dish Daily), Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen, graduates of engineering master’s programs at Stanford, describe their experience in pursuing a STEM career and what motivated them to introduce Roominate, a build-your-own “dollhouse” toy for children.
While it was created with girls in mind, Roominate is a gender neutral toy intended to introduce circuits, problem solving, and spatial skills while creating a personalized house, restaurant or other structure. Brooks commented, “We thought that if we could create something that made experiences more accessible, it might encourage girls to become engineers down the line.”
In conjunction with more emphasis on STEM education at a young age, complementary activities outside of the classroom can break down the preconceived notions that STEM isn’t for girls. NMSI is a supporter of relevant and hands-on strategies for engaging students inside and outside of the classroom, and is proud to have an impact on STEM education for girls.  For example, girls in schools that have been in NMSI’s AP Program since its launch have nearly tripled the number of qualifying scores on math and science AP exams.  With commitment and the proper tools, we can make an impact on all students and increase STEM talent in the U.S.