Since our founding, Girl Scouts has been focused on preparing girls to be strong, courageous women who make impact in the world. Through these efforts, we’ve also been focused on leveling the playing field for women and girls, ensuring that we have equal opportunity, representation and influence in all aspects of society.
Over the past decade, Girl Scouting has launched our STEM initiative, to ensure that girls have access to and are encouraged to explore science, technology, engineering and math beyond the academics they’ll find in school. Sure, we were motivated by the glaring gaps in the numbers of women in high-paying STEM careers and in STEM majors. We were motivated by the alarming numbers of girls who in middle school are opting out of challenging STEM classes because they think it isn’t pretty to be smart. At the same time, our world is changing, and predictions are that no matter what the occupation, STEM competency is and will continue to be a critical skill for the future. We can already see this happening – whether it’s computer technologies that drive every business you can name or the automation and robotics which are changing industries and jobs. Just think about the technological power we all carry in our pockets via our smart phones, and how our kids are using technology every day in the classroom.
Technology increasingly permeates every aspect of society and provides the foundation for most modern innovation. Girls and women in the U.S. are avid users of technology, but are still significantly underrepresented in its creation. And while girls are pursuing science as a field of study in greater numbers than ever before, there is still more to do. Without an equal seat at the tables driving technological innovation, girls' lack of participation in this important and growing area has serious consequences, not only for them but for the future of technical innovation.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that by 2020 there will be more than 1.4 million technology-related job openings, however at current rates, we can only fill about 30% of those jobs with U.S. bachelor's grads. Girls represent a valuable, mostly untapped talent pool and there is opportunity on the horizon..so what deters girls from pursuing STEM education?
A recent study by the National Center for Women & Information Technology identified 4 factors:
- Irrelevant curriculum and reliance on lecturing instead of hands-on projects
- Teaching styles that discourage collaboration
- Lack of opportunities to take risks and make mistakes
- Limited knowledge or inaccurate perceptions about technology-based careers
And that’s where Girl Scouting comes in! In our STEM programs, girls have the opportunity to do hands-on learning, work collaboratively, experiment with new concepts and earn badges without fear of failure. They have opportunities to meet and learn from women working in the wide variety of tech occupations and industries. Most importantly of all – and regardless of what academic and career path they choose - girls are gaining critical knowledge and skills that will provide value to their careers and lives. So let’s all commit to encouraging girls to pursue Girl Scout experiences that expose them to STEM. As Girl Scout leaders, our role is to help prepare girls for future success – and technological competency will be not only an advantage but foundational in our ever-evolving world.