STEM is an interdisciplinary field of four disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Many schools across the United States focus on STEM based teaching, resulting in a well rounded education and student. While this curriculum was once extremely popular, recent US Department of Education studies show that the number of students interested in STEM education is decreasing tremendously. In fact, only 16% of American students have demonstrated an interest in STEM education.
According to the Brookings Institute, “Ingrained biases start at an early age and become even more pronounced as girls move through school and enter into the world of work. Girls are rarely encouraged to study math or science, and often internalize beliefs that boys are simply better in these fields.”
As a result of the decreased demonstrated interest in STEM education in American high schools, it has becoming increasingly difficult to ingrain this form of education into the younger generation. The Obama administration recognized this issue in 2009 and launched a campaign to make STEM a more enticing field for young students to explore. Additionally, the campaign raises awareness regarding the lack of teachers who are qualified and skilled enough to teach STEM specific courses.
Just a few years, in 2014, the Obama administration invested $3.1 million into STEM based education and curriculum. The goal of this investment was to bolster the STEM programs throughout the United States and to drive more students to participate in STEM programs.
mentors and female role models, perceived inequality of opportunity as well as a lack of practical experiences and experiential learning opportunities that enable female students to engage with mentors and explore real world applications. “There is a small window between middle school and high school to encourage and develop that early interest in and focus on STEM, before that early engagement is possibly lost for good.” (Professor Martin Bauer of the London School of Economics). Girls become interested in STEM around the age of 11 and their interest declines rapidly around the age of 15 (CNN Tech).
Marie Curie, one of the most famous and successful women in the STEM field is an exceptional representation of the immense success that can come when women work hard. As a result of her career in science, and more specifically radiation, she won two nobel peace prizes, making her the first woman to ever win more than one. Marie was also the first woman in history to ever work in the position of a Professor of General Physics in Sorbonne, Paris. Unfortunately, she passed away as a result of too much radiation, proving how dedicated she was towards her career. Marie serves as a representation and an example of how successful girls can be if they pursue a career in STEM.
It is essential to get more women interested in STEM because these occupations could translate into greater gender equality in incomes and better economic prospects for women and their families, as these jobs generally pay more and gender gaps in these occupations are lower than in other sectors.