Millennial Perspective | Support Early Introduction of STEM for Females
Caroline McNutt Associate, Mainframe Systems Programmer
What’s your earliest memory with technology?
For me, watching my family members play computer games on big, bulky computers was one of my earliest memories. I got my first cell phone at 14 years old. At that time, that’s about as technical as it got for me. I never thought I’d end up working in mainframe systems programming.
I eventually found an interest in tech careers in college. But for females, becoming well-versed in tech at an earlier age has its advantages to generate and maintain interest in the sciences. If a child can work their way around a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, they are old enough to begin learning more about how the technology works. There are now apps that teach kids how to code through gamification and more emphasis on the sciences by organizations such as the Girl Scouts.
“Research shows women are still vastly underrepresented in STEM fields and exposing girls to these subjects at a young age is vital to ignite their curiosity and close this gap.”
-Girl Scouts of the USA news release
Learning about the sciences
I really didn’t learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers until I attended college. Our STEM faculty periodically approached students on campus to educate interested parties on careers in the sciences.
Their efforts were somewhat successful, and they found interested females and males alike. But there were times where I was the only female in my computer science courses, and I noticed more women were in attendance in the lower level courses. Once the subject matter began increasing in difficulty, there were less women taking the classes their male counterparts were.
I still wonder what caused the interest to drop off. Was learning about STEM careers in college too little, too late for those students? Was there a lack of confidence because they didn’t understand enough about the possibilities?
Planting the seed early for diverse teams
There are mentors who are actively seeking young minds to inspire, such as this group of women working with unnamed aerial systems (UAS). In addition to schools teaching common STEM topics like biology and algebra, communities and schools might offer resources for extra-curricular activities and teaching yourself to code.
While the shortage of women in tech won’t easily be resolved, think about how you can make it better from your point of view. Being supportive as a parent, friend or teacher, with the right tools and educational materials, can help jumpstart interest and confidence early on.