STEM Next Director Ron Ottinger joined leaders from Techbridge, Chevron, out-of-school time providers, government, philanthropy, and the private sector in Washington DC today for the release of a report promoting increased success of girls in STEM. The report identifies promising strategies – and calls for funders to adopt new approaches to ensure all girls – and particularly low-income girls of color – have access to high quality STEM learning opportunities that engage and interest them to pursue STEM education and careers.
Techbridge, a California-based nonprofit providing afterschool and summer STEM programming for girls since 2000, has served 66,000 youth since its inception. Evaluations have shown that girls who participate in Techbridge graduate high school at higher rates, earn higher GPAs, score better on state STEM exams, and are twice as likely as the national average to choose STEM majors in college. The report released today, entitled Changing the Game for Girls in STEM: Findings on High Impact Programs and System Building Strategies was authored by Techbridge leaders Kara Sammet and Linda Kekelis and supported by Chevron.
New solutions are urgently needed to increase the number of girls and women in STEM. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, although women held 57% of the professional occupations overall in the US in 2015, they held just 25% of computing occupations in the U.S. (See: Women and IT: By the Numbers.)
The problem is one that needs to be solved beginning at an early age, as many girls don’t access STEM learning opportunities that nurture their interest or help build their confidence in the STEM disciplines. For example, according to The National Girls Collaborative Project, girls and boys do not significantly differ in their abilities in mathematics and science, but do differ in their interest and confidence in STEM subjects. Male students are over three times more likely to be interested in STEM majors and careers, compared to female students. (See The State of Girls and Women in STEM).
The Techbridge report calls for stakeholders in STEM education to embrace two key strategies to engage more girls in STEM: 1) design and deliver programs and STEM learning opportunities that are responsive to diverse girls and communities; and 2) strengthen the “girl-centric” ecosystem. These strategies emphasize customization – no ‘one size fits all’ solutions will work, and it is vital to understand and actively counter the structural inequities and gender/race/class marginalization that creates barriers to girls’ engagement and success in STEM; and connection – a new ecosystem approach is needed that connects more deeply with families, taps role models, and provide diverse opportunities for girls to succeed in STEM education and careers.
The report notes that “diversity challenges will not be solved by each corporation starting a new, siloed STEM initiative and running it in isolation.” Recommended funder actions include: empowering grantees with flexible funding to prototype, iterate and improve program strategies; support for longitudinal evaluations and alumni tracking so the field can determine effective strategies over time; and adoption of ecosystem perspective by coordinating approaches among funders.
“STEM Next congratulates Techbridge and Chevron on this important contribution to the effort to support girls in STEM, and we look forward to working with our partners to deepen our collective commitment to these approaches,” said Ron Ottinger, STEM Next Director.
To read the full white paper, visit www.techbridgegirls.org/changingthegame.