Share This Post

Program Design, Development, and Quality

STEM Doesn’t Have to be Pink

generation stem

I was contemplating what to blog about today. My birthday is coming up so maybe I would write about traditions and celebrations.  I knew for sure I would not be writing about the World Cup because besides the Google Doodles and posts from friends on Facebook, I really haven’t been keeping up.  But then I was part of a conversation that got my goat.

It was about attracting elementary school girls to STEM by offering pink lab coats and hard hats.

Let me go ahead and say it.  I am a fan of pink.  In fact, my favorite shoes are pink, Hello Kitty Vans. What I am not a fan of is this trend to paint science, technology, engineering, and math materials and resources with a coat of pink paint and thinking that will bring girls running to the lab.

This is a personal issue for me, as a mother of a daughter, as a former Outdoor Education Instructor, and a female who has always loved science.   My love for science is based on inquiry, investigation, and just plain curiosity for the world around me – a need to know how things work.  I am thankful that both my parents have science backgrounds and were always encouraging me.  I had their support whether it was plant identification, understanding how the body works, or taking apart broken lights and repairing them.

They supported me when I chose to take Shop as an elective in junior high while most girls were taking Home Economics (probably why I can’t cook) or Art (probably why I can’t draw).  At no point was I given a pink microscope, breadboard, or calculator- I take that back, I may have had a Hello Kitty calculator.  What I did have was support for my curiosity and role models.

Last November, I attended the 1st Annual STEM Symposium.

It was an amazing two-day event filled with insightful workshops about bringing STEM to afterschool programs, the Maker movement, and a plethora of other topics.  One of the keynote speakers was Geena Davis.  Yes, that Geena Davis from A League of our Own & Thelma and Louise.  She shared some of the research made available through the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media* as well as her core phrase “If she can see it, she can be it.”

generation stem

Picture credit: Teens for Tech

This really landed with me.  Is that why I have always been so interested in science?  Was it because I had role models?  I revisited this phrase later that week when I picked up my daughter from a Girl Scout activity.  They were working on the Detective badge.  I asked her how it went, her response was “I got to be like the doctors on House and Kate on Castle and use science to solve a mystery.”  She had connected her experience to strong women portrayed on TV in science and law enforcement roles.

STEM is a hot topic these days so finding resources just takes few clicks on the keyboard.

Some of my favorite resources I use at work to promote STEM with young girls (and boys too) include:

  • Anything by MAKE– The website has great project ideas, tutorials, information on starting a MAKE club, and their annual summer Maker’s camp.
  • Cardboard Challenge– This takes cardboard engineering and automata to a new level.
  • Squishy Circuits– who doesn’t love to play with playdoh!
  • Odyssey of the Mind– While this program is not strictly focused on STEM, the challenges promote 21st Century Skills and the girls I have worked with in the past love them.  They are great “wow factor” activities to start conversations about why solutions worked or didn’t.
  •– Not only does this site promote Internet safety but their challenges are very diverse, engaging, and you get to earn a badge.
  • Scratch– This free program is a great introduction to programming and is based on the work of constructivist psychologist and mathematician Seymour Papert- the guy who brought those of us who first used a computer in the early ‘80’s the LOGO turtle.

National programs like PBS SciGirls, Girls Who Code, Girl Scouts, and 4H are just a few organizations that focus on sparking a young girl’s interest in science, technology, engineering, and math.  They all share common keys elements: mentors, experts, and exposure.  They all use scientific terms and language and have a focus on problem solving challenges, all while being creative.

I would love to hear from you.  What do you think are the best ways to engage young girls in science, technology, engineering, and math?

*Did you know that males in STEM roles in family films outnumber women in STEM roles in family films by a ratio of 5 to 1? For more interesting facts like this check out their latest report at  (Gender Roles & Occupations: A Look at Character Attributes and Job-Related Aspirations in Film and Television 2013)

For breakfast, I had scrambled egg whites with cheese and salsa on corn tortillas at home and then an iced coffee with LOTS of milk once I got to the office.

Author Profile: @eppispeppy

Share This Post

Leave a Reply