For nearly 30 years, MicheLee Puppets has championed the empowerment of children and youth to make positive choices that will lead to happy, healthy, and productive lives. That is why we have joined organizations and individuals across the country to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and careers.
The demand for workers in science, technology, engineering and math is critically linked to global competitiveness. The National Science Foundation states:
“In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, all students need to develop their capabilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.”
Sadly, there are not enough young people pursuing STEM related careers. In fact, studies show students begin to lose interest in math and science during the middle school years. Girls face special challenges in pursuing math and science careers.
While high school girls are taking many high level math and science courses at about the same rate as boys, there remains achievement gaps for minority and low income students (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2012). Gender disparities begin to occur for college undergraduates where women receive only 18.2% of the bachelor’s degrees in computer science, 19.2% in engineering, 19.1% in physics, and 43.1% in math and statistics (NSF, Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, 2015).
By the time women reach the workforce, they represent 39% of chemists and material scientists, 27.9% of environmental scientists and geoscientists, 15.6% of chemical engineers, 8.3% of electrical and electronics engineers, and 7.2% of mechanical engineers.
What can we do? Here are recommendations from Preparing Students for STEM Careers by Angela Traurig and Rich Feller:
1. Connect students with role models in STEM fields, especially women and ethnic minorities.
2. Students are often motivated to learn if they understand the real world applications of what they are learning. Connect students with career and technical education programs to promote STEM in real-life applications.
3. Promote fun ways to explore STEM interests through Space Camp, NASA Kid’s Club, and local STEM career fairs within educational settings.