Parenting Girls in STEM


Over the years, women have made significant strides in business, law, and the life sciences sector of STEM (Science Technology, Engineering & Math). Women were nearly half of medical school enrollees in 2015 and earned about 60% of U.S. bachelor’s degrees in biology in 2014. In recent years, these figures remained steady. But in engineering and computer science, fields with the most lucrative and fastest-growing number of jobs, women fall to the bottom. In 2013, just 12% of working engineers and less than 30% of computing professionals, were female. In fact, the number of women in computing has fallen from its peak of 35% in 1990 to 26%.

All of this means that women are missing out. Jobs in STEM are expected to increase to more than 9 million by 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with computing positions, in particular, growing at twice the national average. Women in STEM earn 33% more than women in other fields according to a report by the U.S. Department of Commerce. While women work to become equal workforce earners there’s also a different side to the story. If women aren’t employed in these jobs, a female perspective and voice will not be part of the discussion as new technology is developed.

This being said, there are things parents can and should do to encourage their daughters to think about and pursue STEM careers. Here are three simple ideas you can use with young women and children to support their growth and development within the subject of STEM.

1. If you have a younger daughter, consider giving her toys that are traditionally deemed “boys’ toys.” This might include cars, robots, rocket models, or Lego kits that encourage her to solve problems and use her creativity, even if there is not pink on the packaging.

2. Avoid contributing to potential gender stereotypes by projecting your own fear or anxiety about STEM-based subjects such as chemistry, algebra, or physics. You can set the tone for your child’s math/science experience by communicating a positive attitude regarding these subjects. We should never hear a young female student exclaim, “I’m no good at math.”

3. Teach your daughter that she can reach her career goals through the STEM fields. Brainstorm what she hopes to accomplish and then make a list of potential careers in which she can attain her goals. Women are often attracted to careers which will allow them to “make a difference.” It’s important for all girls to understand that she can make a difference through a STEM career.

These are just a few tips parents can use when working to keep STEM pathways open for their children. Much of the information has come from the sources listed below. Please follow our blog for a continuation of this conversation and to learn more about how you can support girls within their STEM development.

By Kathy Baka Professor of Education Kent State University