The Girl Scout Research Institute released an exciting new report, Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, on February 14, 2012. Generation STEM is a national research report investigating girls' perceptions of, attitudes toward, and interests in the subjects and general fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The study concludes that girls are interested in STEM and aspire to STEM careers, but they need further exposure to and education about what STEM careers can offer, and how STEM can help girls make a difference in the world.
Generation STEM was released nationally on Valentine's Day at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City. Anna Maria Chávez, CEO, Girl Scouts of the USA, and Ellis Rubenstein, President & CEO, NY Academy of Sciences, introduced the study and opened the event. The event—Girls Love STEM—featured a panel of experts in science, industry, research, and media, as well as a Girl Scout from the New York metro area with a passion for STEM.
Speakers at the Girls Love STEM event on February 14 at the New York Academy of Sciences. From left to right: Ellis Rubinstein, President & CEO, New York Academy of Sciences; Anna Kuchment, senior editor, Scientific American; Erin Harding, Ambassador Girl Scout, Girl Scouts of Nassau County; Kamla Modi, PhD, research and outreach analyst, Girl Scout Research Institute; Toni Hoover, PhD, senior vice president and director, Pfizer Connecticut Research and Development Laboratories; Meghan Groome, PhD, director of K–12 Science Education Initiative, New York Academy of Sciences; and Anna Maria Chávez, CEO, Girl Scouts of the USA
Key research findings were highlighted, including:
- Seventy-four percent of girls nationwide are interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math; girls like being creative, asking questions, and solving problems.
- Eighty-one percent of STEM-interested girls are interested in pursuing a STEM career, but only 13 percent say a STEM career is their first choice.
- Exposure to STEM activities and careers is low, and girls are aware of gender barriers in STEM career development and the workplace.
- Girls interested in STEM are excellent students and high achievers, and have more STEM exposure and great adult support in pursuing STEM, compared to girls who are not interested in STEM.
- Girls want to make a difference in the world, and they want to help people. Eighty-eight percent of all girls want a career that will help them make a difference in the world.
Girl Scout robotics teams from New York and New Jersey joined together for the love of STEM!
The panel discussion was inspiring. Erin Harding talked about her passion for robotics and interest in engineering as a lead member of the Icebreakers robotics team. She explained how tired she is of stereotypes that prevent girls from pursuing math and science; she wants to “bring the girliness to STEM.” Dr. Hoover connected her important work in pharmaceutical research to helping others, a relationship that girls typically don't recognize. Dr. Groome encouraged parents to get their daughters excited about science and math, and to “discover the answers together” when they hit a roadblock. Additionally, Anna Kuchment encouraged girls to look for internship opportunities with, for instance, science labs, with the aim of establishing mentor relationships.
Check out our live blog for a rundown of Girls Love STEM! And here are two additional posts about the event: Ms. Twixt, Demos.
National STEM Program
Girl Scouts of the USA encourages girls to make a difference in the world through STEM. In a unique, girl-led environment, girls learn by doing, tackling STEM concepts through participation in Girl Scout Leadership Journeys like It's Your Planet—Love It! and by earning badges in the naturalist, digital arts, science and technology, and innovation categories. Special program initiatives give girls opportunities to connect to mentors and role models, learn about careers, and be an active part of a worldwide movement. Check out our web page for more!
STEM Program Evaluations
In addition to the various STEM opportunities afforded by GSUSA's Leadership Journeys and badges, Girl Scouts nationwide have the opportunity to participate in STEM initiatives developed in collaboration with our nonprofit and corporate partners, and made available through sub-grants to Girl Scout councils. GSRI conducts in-depth evaluations of the majority of these programs, such as FIRST Lego League (funded by Motorola and UTC), IMAGINE: Your STEM Future (funded by AT&T), and Journey and Connect Through Technology (funded by Dell), enabling us to understand the impact that STEM programming has on girls' understanding of, and interest in, STEM subjects. GSUSA currently offers grants to councils for the implementation of five unique STEM programs, all of which are being evaluated by the GSRI.
Girl Scout Council Highlights
Girl Scouts is getting girls involved in STEM through many different vehicles. Here are several examples of how Girl Scout councils have used the STEM research to support programming, advocacy, activities, events, and partnerships:
- Coinciding with the national release of Generation STEM, Girl Scouts of San Diego convened a panel of women STEM experts in behavioral neuroscience, finance, and engineering, for a “conversation of consequence” on February 14.
- Together, Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona and the Society of Women Engineers showcased engineering pathways for girls through Imagine Engineering at the University of Arizona. The event drew over 150 girls to explore robotics, solar power, optical science, forensics, chemistry, and civil and electrical engineering through fun, hands-on activities.
- Representatives from Girl Scouts of Connecticut attended a press conference at the state capitol to discuss and advocate for key issues impacting girls statewide, such as the dearth of girls and women in STEM fields.
- Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama is helping to ramp up girls' interest in STEM by offering some great programming, such as the AT&T IMAGINE Your STEM Future project, designed to reach 6,000 young women and introduce them to a variety of career options in the STEM fields.
- Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas teamed up with Texas Instruments to launch a new engineering badge and to fund College Journey, a weeklong STEM mentoring program at Texas Women's University.
- Girl Scouts of Alaska recently held a Women in Science and Technology Day, introducing girls to some excellent female role models in STEM and offering fun, interactive projects.
Girl Scouts of the USA is using the occasion of its 100th anniversary to declare 2012 the Year of the Girl and launch ToGetHerThere: the largest, boldest advocacy and fundraising cause campaign dedicated to girls' leadership issues in the nation's history. This multiyear effort will help break down societal barriers that hinder girls from leading and achieving success in everything from technology and science to business and industry. Our long-term goal is ambitious and urgent: to create balanced leadership in one generation. To do that, we must ask all adult members of society—mothers, fathers, corporations, governments, and nonprofits—to help girls reach their leadership potential and place this urgent issue front and center on the national agenda. We all have a role to play in helping girls achieve their full leadership potential, because when girls succeed, so does society. For more information on Year of the Girl and ToGetHerThere, including how you can join the cause, check out http://www.girlscouts.org/yearofthegirl/
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Generation STEM has traveled far since its February 14 release. GSRI staff has traveled to conferences, research forums, press events, and the White House, spreading the news about the research.
A selection of articles that discuss Generation STEM and the importance of engaging girls in STEM:
• The Boston Globe
• The New York Academy of Sciences
• NASA blog
Women represent half of the nation's workforce and more than half of this country's college graduates. However, just 25 percent of the STEM workforce is comprised of women, and, among women who have college degrees in STEM subjects, only 26 percent end up in STEM jobs, according to a recent U.S. Department of Commerce report.
Adults can influence kids' interests at an early age. A recent article published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology shows that mothers are twice as likely to use numbers when they talk to their sons than when they talk to their daughters. This is concerning, since parents play a pivotal role in shaping and reinforcing children's interests in math and science. Generation STEM shows that girls who are interested in STEM fields are more likely to have parents who are interested and encourage them to pursue these subjects.
A New York Times article brings to life a discussion among four top women scientists about how they survive in a male-dominated field, how they balance their career and family lives, and their recommendations for increasing the number of women in science. We need to hear more from women who are succeeding in STEM careers!
Recent research by Microsoft and Harris Interactive offers insight about parent and student perceptions about STEM. For example, male students are more likely to pursue STEM because they have always enjoyed activities and games in these subjects, while female students who choose STEM do so to make a difference. Students, especially females, are likely to say that a teacher sparked their interest in STEM.
Kallen Tsikalas, PhD, senior researcher, GSRI, will attend the American Education Research Association (AERA)'s annual conference in Vancouver April 13–17, where she'll present a paper entitled Boosting Girls' Self-Confidence in OST Programs: What Matters for Older and Younger Girls, featuring a research collaboration with 10 Girl Scout councils. The paper will be presented as part of a session called Advances in Out-of-School Time Research: Examining Relationships, Program Practices, and Professional Development.
Kamla Modi, PhD, research and outreach analyst, GSRI, attended the Women, Innovation, and Aerospace conference held by NASA on March 8, 2012. She participated in a panel discussion on how to get girls engaged in STEM, along with representatives from Women@NASA and National Academy of Engineering. The event featured discussions with women pioneers in aerospace, STEM student ambassadors, government staff, and middle school girls.
Michael Conn, PhD, vice president, Research, GSRI, participated as a speaker in the roundtable session Transformational Research Through University and Nonprofit Partnerships at the Society for Research on Adolescence Conference on March 9, 2012 in Vancouver, Canada.
The Girl Scout Research Institute, formed in 2000, is a vital extension of Girl Scouts of the USA. The GSRI conducts original research, evaluation, and outcomes measurement studies; releases critical facts and findings; and provides resources essential for the advancement of the well-being and safety of girls living in today's world. The GSRI also informs program, public policy, and advocacy for Girl Scouting.
Girl Scout Research Institute
Public Policy and Advocacy
Washington, DC office
Girl Scouts of the USA