by Dr. Charice Hayes, Founder
by Dr. Charice Hayes, Founder
by Laura Pearson
Despite scoring higher than their male peers in problem solving related to engineering and technology, girls continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields. While this is an issue well beyond the scope of an individual classroom, teachers have an important role to play in balancing the STEM gender gap.
Throughout elementary and high school, girls participate in science and math at approximately the same rate as boys, with some exceptions. While girls are just as likely as boys to take advanced classes in mathematics and chemistry, they’re less likely to enroll in computer science or engineering courses. And that same trend carries over to higher education.
Although the overall statistics look roughly equitable, with women earning 50.3 percent of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees, women’s participation varies significantly across different fields. While women account for more than half of all bachelor’s degrees in the biological sciences, they only receive 17.9 percent of computer science degrees, 19.3 percent of engineering degrees, 39 percent of physical science degrees, and 43.1 percent of mathematics degrees, despite representing nearly 57 percent of all college students.
According to Scholastic, girls’ participation in science starts dropping off in junior high, and the trend continues into high school and college. Since data shows that the difference isn’t in ability, researchers believe there’s something else at play. The National Science Foundation suggests much of the STEM gender gap can be attributed to a sense of belonging; specifically, that a lack of exposure to successful women in STEM causes girls to doubt their own abilities and opt for fields with larger proportions of women instead.
Elementary, middle, and high school teachers play a critical role in keeping girls in STEM.
By intervening before a stereotype threat takes hold, it’s possible to build girls’ confidence and keep them on track toward in-demand careers. Rather than teaching girls in a different way than boys, teachers should craft an approach that makes STEM welcoming and accessible to all. Here are a few ideas to get started:
1. Highlight potential career paths in STEM. Students can’t always connect the schoolwork in front of them to its real-world applications; even if they do understand its value, they likely aren’t aware of the full scope of career options available to them.
2. Incorporate lessons about accomplished female scientists and engineers in curricula. Research shows that exposure to same-gender experts provides girls with a sense of belonging. Rather than restricting lessons to historic women like Marie Curie, discuss women who are making a difference in today’s world.
3. When planning cooperative exercises, distribute class groups to have an equal balance of boys and girls. Assigning at least two girls to a group eliminates the feeling of being outnumbered, which can encourage increased participation.
4. Make sure lesson plans around STEM topics don’t only include stereotypically masculine topics. At the same time, teachers shouldn’t cater exclusively to female students and risk alienating males. Instead, opt for topics with broad appeal and real life relevancy. For example, a lesson plan that bridges a popular career with math, science, English, social studies and home economics skills. For more ideas, try Science Buddies’ topic selection wizard.
Diversity is essential for producing innovation in science and technology. When STEM fields draw upon a broad pool of perspectives and life experiences to solve complex problems, progress is made that much faster. When it comes to girls in STEM, the problem isn’t ability, but rather persistence in a field where they’re the minority. Overcoming the challenges of being a woman in STEM requires girls to feel confident about their place in science and engineering, and teachers are primed to plant those seeds of success.
Image via Unsplash
All 4 One Tutoring operates an after-school program at The Empowerment Academy in Baltimore City. All 4 One Tutoring provides an engaging, fun, and learning experience in its after-school program.
Students use iPads and tablets in the after-school program. They use grade level math and reading applications to help complement instruction and homework provided through the regular classroom teacher.
In the after-school program, All 4 One Tutoring focuses on 3 E’s: Engagement, Enrichment, Empowerment.
by Leigh Gallagher @leighgallagher
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty at the 2013 Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C.
The women at the top of the 2014 Fortune Most Powerful Women list have a serious thing for engineering. And physics. And math.
One of my favorite days of the year at Fortune is MPW day, the day the list of Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women in business comes out. It’s a great celebration of women in power, of women in business generally, and of course it’s always great fun to see how the world reacts to the MPW team’s picks—who’s on, who’s off, who jumped to the top of the list, who fell, who’s brand-new. But beyond these highlights, one of the things I love is the general trends you can pick up by pulling the camera back and looking at how the list changes and evolves over the years.
One strong trend the entire MPW team has noticed over the years is the shift in industry makeup of those at the very top of the list. When Fortune first started the list, the top ranks were consistently held by women in creative fields, like advertising, media and publishing. In 1999—the second year Fortune published its MPW list — Carly Fiorina, then CEO of Hewlett-Packard HPQ 2.00% , was the lone woman CEO in the male-dominated tech sector.
Cut to this year’s list: The women at the top of the list run the bluest of blue chip firms, the biggest industrial and technology giants, and some of the largest companies in the Fortune 500. Just look at the companies with their chief executives now represented in the top 10: IBM IBM 0.94% . General Motors GM 1.75% . Pepsi PEP 0.99% . Lockheed Martin LMT 1.13% . DuPont DD 0.58% . Hewlett-Packard. Not one of the top 10 is in retail; not one is in media; not one is in marketing or advertising (not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with those industries, but the size of the companies is typically smaller and they are fields that traditionally have more women at the top).
The shift speaks volumes about how women’s roles have evolved in business and the kinds of milestones women are achieving in corporate America. (In addition to these corporate giants, we now have a woman running the Fed, a woman Secretary of Commerce, a woman at the helm of Time magazine. It would be nice if we could also have a woman pope and a female president of the United States, but at least one of those two things may not be that far away.)
Here’s another lesser-known commonality about the women at the very top of the list: almost all of them majored in seriously hard sciences. Let’s just tick down the list: IBM’s Ginni Rometty majored in computer science and electrical engineering. GM’s Mary Barra got a BS in electrical engineering. DuPont’s Ellen Kullman? Mechanical engineering (“mech e” in engineering shorthand). PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi got her BS in physics, chemistry and math—not engineering per se, but a hat trick in STEM studies. HP’s Meg Whitman studied math and science then went into economics. A bit lower down on the list, Yahoo YHOO 1.31% CEO Marissa Mayer majored in symbolic systems and got her masters in computer science; Xerox’s XRX 0.54% Ursula Burns has a BS and MS in mechanical engineering. (Former Google executive GOOG 0.91% Megan Smith is not on our list, but the newly-named chief technology officer of the United States has a BS and MS in mechanical engineering.)
One in seven engineers may be female, but engineers represent three of the top five spots on the MPW list. And while engineering may be the trend among the top ranks of the MPW list, plain old math and science is good too: Mondelez’s MDLZ 1.21% Irene Rosenfeld holds a Ph.D. in marketing and statistics, Archer Daniels Midland’s ADM 1.15% Pat Woertz studied accounting, Lockheed’s Marillyn Hewson and Facebook FB 0.47% COO Sheryl Sandberg studied economics.
In fact, of the top 10 Most Powerful Women, only one was anything close to a liberal arts major: Fidelity president Abigail Johnson, who majored in art history at William Smith College. For everyone else, it’s STEM City.
What’s remarkable about this is that these women were choosing these fields of study decades ago. Right now, tech is the engine of our economy—coding is cool, and everyone has their eye on the riches that can come from the next hot tech idea. And even still, we have a paucity of young women and girls in STEM fields. But these women, encouraged by their passion, their talents, and in many cases parents who gave them the confidence to know they could achieve anything they wanted to—pursued their STEM passions of study at a time when it was far more rare, and it propelled each to the top of their fields.
I bring this up because it’s statistically exceptional (see, I can say that, even though I’m an English major) and generally remarkable. But also because I hope as the Most Powerful Women list grows even more and more powerful, and the number of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies grows and grows and grows—25 now, up from 10 in 2006 and 2 in 2002 and one in 1997 (and she was co-CEO with her husband)— I hope young girls will look at these women as models of power and inspiration—and might emulate their path to success. If that’s the case, we’ll be that much closer to the day when the number of women CEOs on the Fortune 500 is too numerous to count—even for a math major.
“From the MPW Co-chairs” is a daily series where the editors who oversee the Fortune Most Powerful Women brand share their insights about women leaders.
Director of STEM Policy, Afterschool Alliance
Executive Director, Noyce Foundation
Senior Director for Strategic Philanthropy and Community Affairs, Time Warner Cable
Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills are increasingly necessary to navigate an ever-more complex world and a globalized economy. There is tremendous energy and momentum to improve these skills among our citizens and students so they can participate fully in contemporary society and the modern economy.
Yet most strategies and policies for reforming STEM education focus on what happens during the school day. While schools are absolutely essential for learning, we must acknowledge that children spend less than 20% of their waking hours in schools each year, and some persuasively argue that school is not where most Americans learn most of their science anyway (Falk & Dierkling, 2010).
Hence, efforts to improve and increase STEM education opportunities must include programs that take place during the afterschool hours and the summer. [Insert learning time graphic, see attached.] Despite the need for many more quality afterschool and summer programs, more than 8 million young people already attend afterschool programs (Afterschool Alliance, 2009).
In addition, there is a sizeable infrastructure of programming and support (for example, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative and the California Afterschool and Safety Program) focused especially on serving young people from groups that are typically under-represented in the STEM fields. This is a large and growing field that local, state, and national education and business leaders and policy makers interested in STEM and K–12 education reform should pay attention to.
Afterschool and summer programs all over the United States are offering engaging, hands-on STEM learning programs that are not only getting children excited about these topics, but are also helping them build some real-life skills and proficiencies.
Afterschool and summer programs all over the United States are offering engaging, hands-on STEM learning programs that are not only getting children excited about these topics, but are also helping them build some real-life skills and proficiencies. There is mounting evidence that demonstrates the impact of these settings. A recent analysis of evaluation studies of several afterschool STEM programs showed that high quality programs can lead to increased interest and improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers, increased STEM knowledge and skills, and increased likelihood of pursuing STEM majors and careers (Afterschool Alliance, 2011b).
The impact of these types of expanded learning programs and extracurricular activities is also reflected in improvements in academic performance, as noted in the research cited by many other authors in this compendium. Other recent research also reveals the importance of out-of-school-time settings for STEM education. Tai, Liu, Maltese, and Fan (2006) found, for example, that early engagement with STEM fields was crucial and that a professed interest in STEM careers by eighth grade was a more accurate predictor of getting a science-related college degree than were the math or science test scores for average students. Thus, early encouragement of elementary and middle school students in STEM fields can be very effective in influencing their choice of college majors. Additionally, Wai, Lubinski, Benbow, and Steiger (2010) found that students who had more opportunities to participate in STEM learning (including beyond the classroom) were more likely to follow STEM career pathways and excel in them.
Afterschool programs are well placed to deliver on these needs by not only providing additional time to engage in STEM topics but also by doing so in a manner that is different from school and that engages different types of learners. These programs can also be very effective in improving access to STEM fields and careers among populations that are currently greatly underrepresented – women, African Americans, and Hispanics (Beede et al., 2011a; Beede et al., 2011b)—helped in part by the fact that African American and Hispanic children participate in afterschool programs in greater numbers (Afterschool Alliance, 2009).
Promising Trends in Afterschool STEM Learning
Afterschool programs are no strangers to STEM programming. STEM-rich institutions, such as museums and universities, as well as youth groups such as 4-H, Girls Inc., Girl Scouts, etc., that have deep roots in their communities, have been offering afterschool STEM programs for many decades. What has changed in the past decade is that they have renewed and deepened their commitment and that the average afterschool provider has also become interested in offering such opportunities to the children they serve. The only federal funding source exclusively dedicated to afterschool and summer learning programming, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, is now emphasizing STEM as a priority area for its grantees. Indeed, the importance of this key funding source cannot be overstated, as it is essential for providing the basic programs and infrastructure that many other STEM-focused partners can tap into to expand learning opportunities for students.
Funding from this federal initiative has significantly leveraged additional resources for STEM programming. For example, the Noyce Foundation is a private philanthropic foundation that invests heavily in afterschool STEM learning through innovative partnerships. A C. S. Mott Foundation-Noyce Foundation collaboration currently is active in 16 states and will continue to expand among the nation’s growing number of state afterschool networks, which are supported by the Mott Foundation. Also Noyce is investing in “Project LIFTOFF,” an initiative to develop and nurture afterschool STEM systems in 10 Midwestern states. This initiative has led many school districts to combine their foundation funding with their 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding to offer exceptionally high quality afterschool STEM opportunities.
Nebraska BLAST! will provide high quality STEM training to staff of all of Nebraska’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs and will give thousands of Nebraska youth the opportunity to engage in exciting, hands-on STEM experiences.
In 2011, the Nebraska 21st Century Community Learning Centers program received a NASA Summer of Innovation grant to launch Nebraska BLAST! This is a 4-year collaborative initiative that brings together STEM content specialists with teachers and afterschool staff from schools that receive funding through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative. This effort will provide high quality STEM training to staff of all of Nebraska’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs and will give thousands of Nebraska youth the opportunity to engage in exciting, hands-on STEM experiences through their local program.
As schools, communities, and parents negotiate how to provide additional learning opportunities for their children and youth, afterschool and summer programs that work closely with schools provide a model to meet this need. Research shows that afterschool programs that are well aligned with the school day and have strong community ties have optimal benefits for kids (Afteschool Alliance, 2011a).
The corporate sector is also getting deeply involved in afterschool STEM education. Change the Equation is a nonprofit organization that was formed to help companies with their STEM education-related philanthropy. Most of the philanthropic investments of these companies focus on the “informal education” arena, which includes afterschool.
For example, in 2009, Time Warner Cable (TWC) decided to focus the majority of its philanthropic resources on a single cause. The result was Connect a Million Minds (CAMM)—a 5-year, $100 million cash and in-kind commitment to inspire students to engage in math and science learning. To bring this commitment to life, TWC supports FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a robotics organization with a model proven to engage young people in STEM learning also funded by 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs in areas across the country. On a national level, TWC also partners with the Coalition for Science After School to provide the “Connectory,” a free, online resource that makes it easy for parents and teachers to find informal STEM learning opportunities. In addition, TWC brings the impact of CAMM to its local markets by supporting FIRST teams and competitions, science museums, and other nonprofit organizations that are engaging kids in STEM.
Several FIRST teams have also utilized 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding with great success. The Camdenton R-III Afterschool Science, Engineering and Robotics program in rural Missouri receives funding from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative and has leveraged that to great effect. Their team has won several awards, including the regional competition that has allowed them to go to the finals for 2 years in a row. The Safe Harbor Before and After School Program in Michigan City, Indiana, which has received 21st Century Community Learning Centers funds for many years, worked with the Indiana Afterschool Network and the Indiana Department of Education to develop a FIRST Robotics team in 2012. The team won the All Star Rookie award in the Midwest and went to the national championship.
It is becoming clear that there is a great need—and a prime opportunity—to tap the potential of afterschool and summer learning programs to serve an urgent national priority to enhance STEM education. Deliberate action by all key stakeholders is required, however, to help afterschool and summer programs fully realize this potential and become strategic—and integral—partners in STEM education.
Federal and state education policies must ensure, in particular, that afterschool and summer programs are included in STEM education policy initiatives if this to become a sustainable, long-term practice (Krishnamurthi, 2012; Afterschool Alliance, 2012).
In addition, the afterschool field must also adopt several strategies to become effective partners in STEM education:
Afterschool programs must deliberately commit to offering STEM learning opportunities and then prioritize and allocate resources to provide professional development in STEM programming areas to staff.
Afterschool intermediary organizations and large networks must widely promote existing high quality curricula to avoid wasting scarce resources on developing new programs and curricula.
The field must reach consensus around youth outcome indicators and adopt them widely so that programs have a clear vision of their goals and role within the STEM education ecosystem. A local- or state-level hub is often a necessity for disseminating information and coordinating professional development efforts and other STEM programming needs for afterschool. This may include seeking partnerships with STEM-rich institutions, such as science museums and universities, as well as other science and math hubs in many states.
Meaningful STEM learning that extends beyond one-shot experiences are necessary. Afterschool and summer programs must pay close attention to offering regular, consistent programming in STEM topics. Furthermore, wherever possible, programs must offer a continuum of STEM learning experiences that extend into middle and high school in order to derive maximum impact from their STEM programming.
By Michael Morella Jun 20, 2014
The Black Eyed Peas frontman says STEM education will get America’s schools back on track.
Will.i.am likes robots as much as he likes rapping – maybe even more so. The Grammy Award-winning musician and Black Eyed Peas frontman has supported inventor Dean Kamen’s FIRST Robotics Competitions, inspired underserved students with technology through his i.am.angel Foundation and even had his song “Reach for the Stars” beamed back from Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover in 2012. Now he’s trying his hand at 3-D printing with the EKOCYCLE Cube, a device developed along with Coca-Cola and 3D Systems that has cartridges that work in part from recycled plastic. U.S. News spoke with will.i.am while he was in Washington for this week’s White House Maker Faire. Excerpts:
What sparked your interest in STEM?
One [thing] was a  movie by the name of “Waiting for ‘Superman’” that talks about the education system in America and how poorly it performs. In particular, my neighborhood [in Los Angeles] that I come from was featured in that movie. Superman, a fictitious character, is supposed to solve real problems. STEM, to me, is the solution for schools and neighborhoods like mine.
How have you worked to improve STEM education?
To help solve the problems and the riddles that plague my community and the communities like it … we created this cross-disciplinary, transformative, project-based-learning curriculum that kids do after school. Our kids had a 0.74 GPA – just failing beyond failing – and now they have 3.4s, 4.0s. Four of them are about to go to MIT for a summer program. But they can’t do those things until their grades change. We give them incentives. If you’re living in the hood and you’re surviving, what incentive do you give kids? We say, “Let’s get on track to go to college, learn the skill set, so not only are you looking for a job when you get out of college, you can create jobs.” There are millions of jobs in America around computer science and advanced mathematics that we can’t fill because the skill set’s not in America. STEM solves a lot of problems.
Do you have any other thoughts about changing the culture around STEM?
STEM is a hot topic. When I was going to elementary school, we had science in our school. I went to Brentwood Science Magnet. We had science class, oceanography lab, physics and computer labs. And then somewhere in the ’90s, they started cutting budgets. They took music out of schools; they took science out of schools. What built America was STEM. It was companies like Ford – that’s engineering. It was H-1B visas – we were able to bring people from other countries. What built America was NASA. Thank God that it’s a subject making its way to popular culture because for some reason popular culture forgot the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
How can parents help?
At the Maker Faire, there was this beautiful robot. Who built this? Two little girls. [I asked,] “How old are you?” “I’m 14.” “I’m 12. I’m her little sister.” I’m like, “So who designed it?” Here walks the dad: “I helped them design it. … Every weekend me and my girls go in the garage and we start building robots.” Wow. If it was a dad and a son, that sounds pretty obvious. But two girls and a pop? So that is an amazing story to see parents and kids – especially girls – building robots. They’re going to take that skill set with them to high school, and then, when they graduate high school, they’re probably going to go to MIT or Stanford. Then they’re going to get a job at Lockheed Martin or Boeing or the Department of Defense. Amazing things.
June 6, 2014
We trust that everyone is enjoying their Friday. We have been very busy with preparing to expand our services to offer a STEM after school program. We have partnered with a local charter school to provide an after school STEM education program. Our STEM after school program will begin this fall and we have several sign-ups already.
STEM education is an approach to teaching and learning that integrates the content and skills of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM Standards of Practice guide STEM instruction by defining the combination of behaviors, integrated with STEM content, which is expected of a proficient STEM student.
If you are a school leader/principal in the Baltimore City or County area and would like to partner with us to implement an after school STEM program, contact us at email@example.com.