Interest in STEM subjects drops among girls as they get older, but it doesn’t have to be that way, according to a new report from Microsoft.
A few small changes at school and home could encourage more girls to sign up for STEM classes and consider careers in science, technology, engineering, or math, according to survey data.
The report’s main findings, published last month, show that:
- Girls and young women have a hard time picturing themselves in STEM roles. They need more exposure to STEM jobs, female role models, and career awareness and planning.
- Girls don’t initially see the potential for careers in STEM to be creative or have a positive impact on the world. But even a little exposure to real-world applications of STEM knowledge dramatically changes their outlook.
- Girls who participate in STEM clubs and activities outside of school are more likely to say they will pursue STEM subjects later in their education. The kinds of experiments and experiences girls are exposed to in these activities can provide insights for how to enhance STEM instruction in the classroom.
- Encouragement from teachers and parents makes a big difference in girls’ interest in STEM—especially when it comes from both teachers and parents.
- Educators can foster a “growth mindset” among their female students by tapping into their willingness to work hard for results.
“Conditions and context can make a significant difference to girls, young women, and their interest in STEM,” report authors note. “…We may be able to make significant strides just by showing girls and young women how STEM knowledge is applicable outside of the classroom, and how it can power their aspirations to make the world a better place.”
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