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5 Ways to Spark STEM Interest in Girls

The loss of interest and engagement in STEM programs and careers for girls is well documented. And while women make up half of the workforce, only 29 percent participate in STEM careers, with even lower numbers in computer science. Karen Peterson, CEO of National Girls Collaborative Project, shares her thoughts.

Women of color face a greater lack of representation. Over the last ten years thousands of programs designed to introduce girls to STEM content have been established across the United States. Organization such as Girls Scouts, 4-H, Boys & Girls Clubs, and the YWCA offer clubs and specialized content to address the gap. Corporations have invested millions of dollars to develop curriculum, and support STEM workforce development. Despite these actions, the STEM gap remains.

The study, "Closing the STEM Gap," published by Microsoft, identifies small actions that can have a large impact on girls' interest in STEM. In 2017, Google and Gallup published data which identifies an encouragement "gap." Researchers funded by the National Science Foundation and other philanthropic foundations are beginning to identify subtler ways girls are discouraged from considering these fields.

Here are five small ways you can provide the encouragement we have discovered is critical to engaging girls in STEM.

  • Listen to what girls say about their challenges and desires
  • Encourage early connections to role models and mentors, especially via social media, television, and print media.
  • Emphasize the creativity and real-world application of STEM careers.
  • Regularly and routinely encourage the young people in your life about their competence in STEM, especially in computer science.
  • Serve as a positive champion and supporter, focusing on what girls need and acting on their requests.

We see how encouragement helps small children grow and develop as they learn to navigate the world. Why wouldn't the same sort of positive and supportive messaging help girls see the potential of STEM? If we can increase our support and encouragement for girls, perhaps one day, our numbers will be very different.

Written by Karen Peterson, CEO of National Girls Collaborative Project.

This article was shared with permission and originally appeared on