Today’s girls are told they can excel at anything and shouldn’t shy away from math, or understanding how technology impacts every aspect of their daily lives.
The problem? Girls aren’t pursuing math (or science, technology, and engineering—called “STEM” for short) at anywhere near the same rates as boys.
A study by the American Association of University Women found that among first-year college students, women are much less likely than men to say that they intend to declare a STEM major. By graduation, men outnumber women in nearly every science and engineering field. This contributes to a serious gender gap in lucrative STEM careers, like web development and engineering.
To reverse this trend, organizations nationwide and online are working to spark girls’ interest in STEM. Here are four of the most notable:
Girls Who Code
Girls Who Code teaches girls about computer science and the programming languages that create computer programs. Nearly 475 Girls Who Code clubs operate around the country free of charge for girls in 6th through 12th grade. Clubs meet weekly for two-hour classes taught by volunteer instructors trained on the Girls Who Code curriculum, which was designed for teens with a range of computer science knowledge, and introduces them to computer science concepts such as conditionals and loops, through hands-on group projects.
The Girls Who Code summer immersion program is a seven-week full-day camp that gives high school juniors and seniors hands-on instruction in computer science. The camps are offered free of charge in 11 US cities, including New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C., to accepted participants who have demonstrated interest in computer science.
Girlstart works to engage girls with fun, relatable STEM-centric programs. Austin, Texas-based Girlstart Summer Camp allows girls in 4th through 8th grade to participate in weeklong day camps from early June to late July. There are five programs campers can choose from, such as “Jurassic Adventure,” where girls construct a pretend dinosaur theme park, or “World Tour,” where girls design a solar-powered tour bus and engineer a rotating stage for a fictional pop star’s concert tour. Camp enrollment is open to all girls; the cost per camp is $300.
Girls Inc. “Operation SMART”
Operation SMART, a subset of Girls Inc., a nationwide advocacy group with local chapters, works to stimulate girls’ enthusiasm and develop their skill sets around science, technology, engineering, and math. “Eureka!” is a multi-year program for rising 8th graders, who participate in hands-on STEM-related activities such as science experiments and robotics workshops. High school seniors who complete the Eureka! program receive assistance finding a STEM-related part-time paid internship. Operation SMART programs are free of charge to participants.
Society of Women Engineers: “Invent It. Build It”
The Society of Women Engineers engage girls in kindergarten through grade 12, in person and online, in a variety of ways. Their largest initiative is their annual “Invent It. Build It.” conference, where girls in grades six through eight, parents, and educators gather for a one-day conference, in a new city each year. The 2016 conference will be held in Philadelphia in October. Girls will have the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities, as well as attend an expo where they will learn about engineering clubs, camps, scholarships, and other ways to continue exploring engineering. The event is open to the public and costs $7 for girls and $5 for educators and parents.
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