In their early years of school, girls excel at Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects. But somewhere around the junior high age, girls begin turning away from their interest in STEM. This is at the age when many girls don’t want to attract attention to themselves for things that make them feel different, especially different in a bad way.
As their friends begin to complain about how hard or boring math and science can be, or worse yet, how uncool it is to be too smart, girls can begin to downplay their interest in these subjects. Unfortunately, a greater emphasis is placed on being “cool” for girls of that age – and science and math don’t seem to make the short list of activities that are considered cool.
But keeping an interest in STEM subjects is crucial to a girl’s future path. It can give girls more confidence to realize they can figure out complicated problems. And it puts them on the road to future success – no matter which field they decide to go into. They learn to become problem solvers who aren’t turned off when a problem requires a complicated solution. They learn to stop quitting and start rolling up their sleeves.
Another reason girls should consider sticking with STEM is that there are plentiful jobs in that field, and they are jobs that pay well. Science and technology continue to be the wave of the future, and we need more women in that field. Women workers are still the minority in the science and tech worlds.
But how can you get your little girl to develop an interest in STEM in the first place? And how can you ensure she’ll care less about being cool and more about following her heart as she gets older? We’ve got you covered. Try these tips now while she’s still young, so when she gets in junior high her interest in STEM will start picking up steam instead of fizzling out.
Praise Being Smart
Often, girls are praised by their parents and other adults in their life for their feminine traits, like being pretty and kind. Parents, and dads, in particular, need to expand that way of thinking. Girls should be praised for being smart more frequently than they are praised for their appearance. Not only will it program girls to think of themselves as smart, but it will also teach them that it’s a valuable trait – one that is recognized and appreciated by the number one man in their life.
Teach Them How to Weather Setbacks
At such an impressionable young age, it can be difficult to know the difference between failure and having a minor setback. Girls need to understand that getting the occasional bad grade doesn’t mean they don’t have an aptitude for a particular subject – it just means they have to buckle down and work harder.
It boils down to self-confidence and understanding how to pick yourself up and dust yourself off after a loss.
Foster Their Self-Confidence
By showing girls they have skills, value, and strength, they’ll begin to believe it over time. And it’s far easier to instill that belief in them at a young age than it is to play catch-up later.
Enroll them in a sport or two in their early years or teach them a skill they can learn something from. If you keep a backyard garden, give them a small section of their own. The more they learn how to do, the more capable they’ll feel.
Give Them a Mentor
Whether they look up to an older girl in their school who is hardcore into STEM or they follow real-life examples of women trying to break into that field, they need someone they can relate to in the science world.
Whether your daughter learns about Marie Curie or follows a more contemporary example, like Astronaut Abby, the power of a mentor can’t be underestimated. For girls to dream big, it helps to see success stories.
Encourage Her Friends Too
If your daughter has a group of friends who all believe that STEM is cool, she’ll be more likely to stay with it. Peer pressure is enormous in junior high and high school so surrounding your daughter with like minds may help her stay the course.
What can you do though if her friends don’t seem as enthralled with math and science as your daughter does? Expand her social circle. Sign her up for an all-girls camp, class, or organization dedicated to STEM.
There are several organizations to check out, including National Girls Collaborative Project, Digital Media Academy’s Made by Girls, Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, and AAUW.