I Heart Science!
I Heart Science!
Science is very dear to my heart, so, of course, I believe that everyone should learn about it. I would argue that science is the most fundamental form of problem-solving applied to the world. Scientific knowledge is critical to the advancement of the human race, and organizations such as UNESCO openly state that science “will solve today's acute economic, social and environmental challenges.”
Our world cannot continue to deprive itself of the full scientific potential of both male and female minds. Although in recent years, the number of women involved in science has increased they are still underrepresented in the field of science. Attracting and retaining more women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce will maximize innovation, creativity, and competitiveness.
According to several statistics women make up half the workforce, earn more college and graduate degrees than men, and by some estimates represent the largest economic force in the world. Research shows that the differences in science and math ability between boys and girls are indisputably insignificant, and yet girls still are not making their way into careers in math and science (Hyde and Mertz, 2009). There is a strong body of research showing that girls begin their science education at a disadvantage and fall behind, not because of lack of interest or ability, but because of lack of exposure.
I have been proudly teaching sciences for more than 14 years. My mother was a physics teacher, and my father could build anything with his hands. As a young girl, he gave me hands-on experience and an understanding of how things and the world around me worked. I credit my parents for my career choice as a science teacher, and, importantly, I had supportive teachers throughout my schooling.
Every science teacher can play an influential role in shaping a girl’s love for science. Here are a few tips for teachers to help them encourage girls to pursue a career in science.
- Expose girls to STEM. As educators, we must try to create environments and science programs that are inviting to girls, and we can do this by exploring the world around them through a scientific lens. Science is part of our daily lives, from cooking, cell phone communication, magnetic nail polish, the physics of colours, to understanding the daily weather report, recycling, reading maps and using a computer. We can encourage participation in unique programs in STEM fields by exposing girls to the research and career opportunities available to young women who pursue a STEM major.
- Help to break down stereotypes and beliefs. The misconception that girls are naturally better at reading and comprehension, and boys are naturally better at math and science has considerably influenced girls for generations. It is time to counteract this biased perception and inspire girls at a young age to embrace the language of math, and the fun and excitement of science so that they continue with these subject choices into high school. Simple tactics to challenge gender bias is to acknowledge it as reality, question generalizations and perceptions and discuss and understand their limitations. When we challenge predefined views, we open our girls to enriched and amazing experiences.
- Be a Mentor and Inspiring Teacher. Finding a good mentor can do wonders for building confidence and influencing a girl’s choice of career. A mentor is not only someone who is willing to spend time teaching techniques and processes, but also someone who has the capacity and capability to lead young women toward their success and advancement. Become a model of curiosity for the girls in your life. In my classroom, I try not to teach “about a topic” but instead to teach “for the student” by showing the benefit of what they are learning. I relate everything I can to their everyday life experiences and provide examples of where science is intuitive, logical and important.
- Take Charge and Educate. Introduce your students to the websites of professional organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers, Women in Technology International to name a few. These resources present a wonderful opportunity to learn a great deal about the field, and what it's like to be a woman in a specific STEM profession.
Advances in technology and sciences are transforming our world at an incredible pace. Being “science literate” will no longer be an advantage, but an absolute necessity. As an educator, I believe in providing my students with a unique opportunity to learn and explore the many possibilities available to them. Whether they become career scientists or step out into the world as scientifically literate citizens, I believe that girls must be well-prepared to enter a world of increasing social and technological complexity. The best preparation for this is to learn to reason creatively and to think critically.
- Kahle, JB, Parker, LH, Rennie, LJ & Riley, D. (1993) Gender differences in science education: Building a model. Educa’l Psychol’st 28(4), 379-404.
- Kass H. (1983) Attitudes and perceptions of girls about science: in Proceedings of the First National Conference for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (ed. Ching, H.L.) SCWIST, Vancouver, BC.
Ware, NC & Lee VE. (1988) Sex differences in choice of college science majors. American Educational Research Journal 25(4) 593-614.