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Partnerships and Building Relationships / Program Design, Development, and Quality

Why is it so important for girls to see women in STEM Careers?

Why is it so important for girls to see women in STEM Careers?

I began this year with a big change, I started a new job that focuses on increasing gender equity in STEM. This got me thinking about why it is so important for girls to see women in STEM and how critical role models are to helping girls consider STEM activities and careers. Representation matters and encouraging girls from all backgrounds to pursue STEM starts with showing them they can, showing them what a female scientist looks like. It’s critical that girls see a diversity of STEM role models and career pathways. This means creating a space where girls not only see themselves in STEM but feel safe and supported in exploring and learning.

Photo of smiling women in STEM careersI asked some incredible AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors for their thoughts on why representation and role models matter for girls in STEM. Here is what they had to say.

“Representation matters because the mix of experiences and learning it took to arrive at the temporary stop you are on is made more tangible for people otherwise intimidated by the process of the journey,” says Nicole Jackson, Chief Technology Officer at Duet Health. “We are not all knowing, we just know what we’ve learned, and the goal is to share it and to let it light a potential pathway without becoming a stage— when they connect with it, they begin to identify pieces of you in them.”

“Where we come from and our experiences make us who we are. Who we are changes the questions that we ask, and our science is about answering those questions. If we don’t have lots of different people from lots of different backgrounds, we may not be asking the right questions and science and society will be less because of it,” says Dr. Wendy Bohon, Geologist at the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology.

There is so much inspiration to take from these incredible women. I love the idea of sharing our knowledge so the nextwomen in STEM work in a lab conducting research generation can learn from us, and they in turn will pave the path for future generations.

During the March 18th Women in STEM: Spark a Future Twitter chat, women were asked why they think girls in STEM need role models.

Dr. Harshini Mukundan, Team Leader/Deputy Group Leader at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said “I think role models and examples are required to pave change! When girls see women in STEM careers they learn to dream, they learn to hope, they know it is possible – even when someone or society may be telling them otherwise.”

“Representation matters in climate change research. Too often we visualize women and girls as climate victims, not as heroes of climate solutions,” Dr. Victoria Herrmann, Managing Director at The Arctic Institute. “We need every girl to see themselves as climate champions, capable of using STEM to safeguard our shared home.”

women in STEM record underwater video in a reef“When you have an example of what you can be, it makes the journey less scary. This is why girls need to see women in STEM careers,” says Dr. Danielle Twum, Molecular Science Liaison, Caris Life Sciences.

I love the shift in perspective to seeing girls and women as heroes in climate change. I love how role models and representation can build hope and resilience in girls. If you want to see more inspiration from these and other women in STEM, follow #WomenTalkSTEM on Twitter.

Readers, I have a question for you. How is your program providing opportunities for girls to see a potential STEM future?

If you are looking for more ways to show the girls in your programs that if she can see it, she can be it, check out the IF/THEN Collection and IF/THEN Ambassadors. If you are looking for additional women role models in STEM, the FabFems database has more than 1000 fabulous women ready to share their pasts and spark a future.

For breakfast I had my usual, two VERY large cups of coffee. I really should work on that.

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