5 Ways To Encourage Girls into STEM Fields
There are several reasons why girls are subtly discouraged from STEM fields in Africa. Some of the reasons may be societal stereotypes about what women can or cannot do or gender discrimination in some marginalized communities; these reasons, if not properly addressed, somehow creep into these girls’ mindsets, subconsciously forcing them away from STEM fields.
When these things are the case, it takes a huge toll on these girls’ mindset and puts them behind in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. Still trying to figure out why it seems quite difficult to encourage or convince girls into STEM?
Policies and systems addressing gender disparities and discrimination in STEM must be put in place so as to abolish the roots of the problem. This will help to encourage and convince girls to pursue STEM fields, as it’s not only an issue of equity but also a subject crucial for Africa’s growth.
Let’s dive right into the blog post where you’ll be taking away five amazing points on how you can effectively encourage girls to pursue STEM courses for study.
1. Early Exposure and Education
Early exposure is key to cultivating interest in STEM fields. Introducing girls to STEM concepts in their formative years through interactive activities, workshops, and educational programs can ignite their curiosity and passion.
Primary schools should introduce the basic concepts of computer science, engineering, and math through hands-on activities and experiments. For example, students can build simple machines and structures using Lego, K’Nex, or everyday materials. Simple robotics kits are also great for teaching engineering and programming basics. Matching math lessons to real-world problems makes them more applicable and engaging for young learners.
The parents, too, have a role to play here. If parents start to buy educational science movies for their girl children, this is where they begin to cultivate the science culture in their brains subconsciously. The same thing applies to schools.
Independent action steps or suitable collaborations between schools, NGOs, tech companies, and parents can facilitate hands-on experiences from home and kindergarten, fostering the excitement of STEM subjects. Apply for our scholarship to find your tertiary education in STEM by clicking here.
2. Mentorship and Role Models
Seeing and interacting with women who have successful careers in STEM fields can inspire girls to imagine themselves working in these fields. Schools can make an effort to bring in guest speakers and mentors to provide female role models in STEM.
Some ideas include:
- Invite female engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and tech professionals to come speak about their work and career paths. Hearing firsthand stories can motivate girls to pursue similar paths.
- Partner with STEM companies to set up mentorship programs that match girls with professional female mentors. Mentors can provide advice and support as girls consider STEM studies and careers.
- Ask female teachers within the school who work in STEM areas to speak about their backgrounds. Students may not be aware of the STEM degrees and careers held by their own teachers.
Establishing mentorship programs where young girls have access to guidance and support from women already thriving in STEM can provide invaluable insights and encouragement. Apply for our mentorship program and get a mentor here.
3. Make STEM Relatable
One of the best ways to get young girls interested in STEM fields is to show how they relate to problems or issues in their own communities. Using local examples that they can connect with makes STEM fields feel more tangible and attainable.
For instance, a science teacher could develop a lesson around testing water quality in local streams, rivers, or wells. By collecting samples and testing pH, contaminants, and bacteria levels, they are engaging in key chemistry and biology concepts. However, framing it around a community health issue makes it come alive.
Or a math teacher could develop a budgeting project around calculating costs for a community garden, small business, or local charity project. Dreaming up their own project ideas empowers students to see how math enables creative solutions.
4. Supportive School Culture
Creating a supportive and encouraging school culture is key to getting young girls interested in STEM fields. Many times, girls can be discouraged by gender biases, a lack of female role models, and not feeling like they belong. Schools need to be proactive in shaping an environment where girls feel empowered to explore and succeed in STEM.
Here are some ways schools can create a supportive culture:
- Train teachers on gender biases: Ensure teachers are aware of any subtle or unconscious biases they may have towards girls in STEM. Provide diversity and inclusion training focused on making classrooms and STEM activities welcoming to girls.
- Celebrate girls’ achievements in STEM: Make sure to recognize and celebrate when girls succeed in STEM competitions, receive STEM awards, complete STEM projects, etc. This reinforces that girls are capable STEM students.
- Promote STEM role models: Highlight women STEM professionals through school assemblies, inspirational talks, field trips, and classroom posters and materials. This gives girls achievable role models and visibility that STEM careers are for girls too.
5. Access to Resources and Opportunities
Equal access to resources, such as computers, laboratories, and internet connectivity, is vital to ensuring girls have the tools needed to pursue STEM education. Scholarships, internships, and apprenticeships targeted at girls can provide the necessary opportunities for practical experience and skill development.
Encouraging girls to pursue STEM fields in Africa necessitates a multifaceted approach involving educational institutions, policymakers, communities, and families.
By providing early exposure, fostering supportive environments, and offering role models and resources, we can empower the next generation of African women to make their mark in the STEM world. The benefits are not only individual but will also contribute significantly to the advancement and innovation of technology in Africa.
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