Wednesday, March 14, 2012

As Girl Scouts Turn 100 We Look Towards Equity in STEM

This week the Girl Scouts of the USA turned 100!  In honor of this very special birthday there have been many wonderful tributes to this esteemed organization and the woman who started it all.  But unless you were - or still are - a Girl Scout, you might not know the following fun facts:

  • The Girl Scouts is the largest organization for girls in the world, with 2.3 million girl members and 890,000 adult members working primarily as volunteers.
  • Michele Obama is the Honorary National President, as has been the tradition for all First Ladies to hold this position since Lou Henry Hoover in 1929.
  • More than 50 million American women were Girl Scouts. 
  • 53% of all women business owners are previous Girl Scout members.
The Girl Scouts, like most of the girl-serving organizations I admire, does a great job emphasizing the achievements made by women as a group and as individuals.  But those of us dedicated to equity in education can't help focusing on how much further we have yet to go, especially in STEM.  The following chart is from the American Association of University Women's 2010 report Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The report illuminates some evidence as to why, despite all of the tremendous progress made by and for women in the STEM fields, we still see such profound female underrepresentation in science and engineering.  Some of the findings include stereotypes, gender bias and the general culture found in science and engineering departments in colleges and universities.

If you are curious about investigating this Why So Few? question at your organization, here are a few resources that might be helpful.

Words Matter: Speaking and Writing about Gender in Science
This short paper from provides great suggestions about how to communicate about issues of gender in science.  The words that we choose when describing inequities, beliefs and trends really do matter, not only in published form but also when speaking to colleagues, parents and children.  Whether you are considering raising an issue of inequity at your organization, planning a discussion for a professional development workshop, or talking to kids about specific stereotypes that you have noticed, this document is a good read to help you think deeply about the words you choose.

STEM Equity Pipeline Archived Webinars
The STEM Equity Pipeline is a project of the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, a national organization committed to the advancement of equity and diversity in classrooms and workplaces.  They frequently host informative webinars on topics including mentoring, marketing and assessment; if you missed one, all of the webinars and presentation slides are archived for you here.

The National Girls Collaborative Project newsletters and listserv
The National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) is designed to bring together girl-serving STEM organizations that are committed to informing and encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM.  Their newsletter and listserv are great ways to stay in touch about gender and diversity related issues in the STEM fields.  The NGCP also has a free webinar coming up about funding on Wednesday March 28, 2012.

The Coalition for Science After School's LinkedIn group discussion page
Right now on LinkedIn, CSAS group members are having a very interesting discussion about why there is a decrease in the number of women in the Computer Science field.  While some people think that women and girls feel 'intimidated' by numbers, other people have theorized that girls are less attracted to CS because they have aspirations for careers that help people, and computers are not thought of by girls as helping people.  What do you think?  Connect with other CSAS members, join our group and share your experiences!

As for the future of girls, women and the Girl Scouts?  It's up to all of us to make it.  Check out this great article from the Make Magazine blog about the past, present and future of the Girl Scouts - including some great ideas for potential badges for STEM explorations!  

No comments: