"Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live."
This is one of a number of inspiring quotes from Dr. Mae Jamison –– who, if you don't know the name, was the first Black female astronaut to go to space. And while it can certainly be taken as inspirational direction for anyone trying to work out their place in the world, it is particularly powerful when considered with regard to other young girls who might want to follow a path like Jemison's –– into a scientific or mathematical pursuit where gender-based barriers remain.
Women have fought stereotypes for decades –– some regarding raising families, others about how well we can cook and clean, and so on. But one of the most detrimental stereotypes against girls today is that we’re “not good at” math, science, and other related subjects. This starts with children’s tee shirts (sparkles and princesses for girls, planets and dinosaurs for boys) and continues right through to disparity in opportunities in the job market. But girls are interested in these subjects too, and deserve as much chance as possible to pursue STEM careers. STEM education does wonders for graduates –– from giving them more job opportunities and narrowing the pay gap, to helping them build self-confidence. For these and many more reasons, it’s time we encouraged girls to pursue this type of education.
STEM education can help in developing life skills Skills taught in STEM programs include problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration, among many others. As a result, those who study for STEM careers generally end up with well-rounded educational backgrounds. This in turn means that graduates are better prepared to deal with different kinds of situations anywhere in life –– professionally or otherwise. Some STEM programs also work public speaking and literacy into their curriculums, encouraging students to develop effective communication skills. STEM can open the door to exciting opportunities Girls considering what to study often find themselves looking for jobs that offer opportunities for financial growth and job stability, rather than jobs that they would enjoy pursuing. Luckily, many STEM opportunities offer the best of both worlds. Careers for girls who study mathematics include exciting pursuits such as data science and financial analysis –– jobs that are in high demand right now and offer girls who love math the chance to follow their calling. Meanwhile, jobs in science include pursuits like forensic analysis or marine biology, to name a few –– also career paths that are both stable and, for a girl who loves science, fascinating.
STEM careers can help them build confidence in themselves Girls tend to suffer from self-confidence issues more often than boys –– and unfortunately, these issues can carry over into adult life. STEM education, however, teaches students that failure is okay. In fact, failure is actually a necessary part of education in STEM, in a certain sense. Designing, building, testing, failing, and testing again are natural parts of many STEM pursuits, and the same process can build self-confidence. When students get used to the idea that failure can occur on the path to success, they are less likely to worry about falling short, in one thing or another.
STEM education breaks down limiting stereotypes about gender Women have faced stereotypes for decades: We’re meant to raise a family, keep our homes clean, and stick to jobs supposedly aimed at women –– such as teaching and nursing (which we’d like you to know are extremely challenging jobs!). Today though, women who do choose to build families have more opportunities in STEM than in the past; just as they can become mompreneurs from home, they can also participate remotely in any number of STEM-related jobs. These include medical science research, remote healthcare, software engineering, and more.
Women in STEM can inspire more girls
There have been plenty of women in STEM who inspire today’s girls: Margaret Hamilton, the women who was responsible for the coding of Apollo 11; Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean… by herself; and Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the deputy director general and chief scientist at WHO. These are just a few of countless examples. But it’s clear that the more women we see choosing to study in STEM fields, the more inspiration young girls will be able to draw from figures like these. All things considered, STEM careers are wonderful choices for girls who are interested in related fields. As they graduate, they’ll have countless exciting and promising doors opening for them. And on top of this, women in STEM can show the world that they can, in fact, “do it all” –– including holding a prestigious job, raising a family, and everything in between.
Article written by Reena Jamison
Exclusively for SCIENCE TEACHER MOM