Tips for Encouraging Girls to Get into Science
Statistics show that women in the U.S. receive fewer than 20% of Bachelor's degrees in computer science, engineering, and physics. They are not greatly represented in the other sciences either, nor in math. Educationalists are eagerly looking for ways to bridge this gap. But we need to understand the reasons for it in order to solve the problem and come up with effective ways to drive change.
Below are eight ways to encourage girls to get into science.
1. Positive Attitudes to Girls in Science and Math Electives
As students move up from elementary school to middle and high school, they have a number of choices of what to take. Girls tend to be pushed into arts subjects and don’t always get a chance to do chemistry or physics. If there is an accelerated program for math and science, they often get passed over, even when their grades are as good if not better than the boys.
2. Positive Attitudes to Smart Girls
A lot of teachers as well as peers label smart girls "geeks," and therefore different from other girls, even less desirable. The school and society as a whole need to applaud and reward academic ability and not just try to churn out girls who are "nice" and people-pleasers.
3. Allow Girls to Learn from Their Mistakes
Even when girls are allowed to enroll in math and science subjects, at the first hint of a problem, they are often encouraged to drop the course and take something easier. But very few people have ever learned to ride a bicycle on the first attempt. Some students take longer than others to grasp concepts. It is also the teacher's job to support every student in their class who is struggling, not write them off and get rid of them.
4. Encourage Girls to Be More Career Orientated
A lot of boys know what they want to be when they grow up, either through their own choice, or that of pushy parents who want a son who is a doctor or engineer. If girls are interested in those careers, especially engineering, they may somehow be seen as freaks of nature. But the only way to get into those careers is through studying the right subjects. Girls in high school and college should focus on what classes will help them achieve their goals and cut out the fluff.
5. Go for AP
An Advanced Placement course in physics or calculus will be difficult, true, but it can also give college credits and a head-start on a degree without having to pay tuition. If girls do well, great. If not, it won’t drag down their Grade Point Average (GPA) the way a bad result in a college class would.
6. Offer Separate Classes for Boys and Girls
Some schools have actually started to offer single-sex classes in science and math because boys and girls are seen to learn differently, and often struggle with society’s attitudes to them studying these subjects. The results have been very positive, with the all-girl classes actually outperforming co-ed classes and even the boys’ classes.
7. Expose them to Role Models
Schools can invite alumni back, or local professional women who can talk about how they reached their goals in life and attained their careers. The more models for success girls have, the more encouraged they will become that they can be successful in science, math and technology too.
8. Offer Additional Help
Parents can pay for additional tutoring, or perhaps an online course. Teachers can give lunchtime and after-school support, where girls can ask questions informally. A science club is always a fun way to engage students and can foster a real love of science.
These ideas can make a real difference to girls' attitudes to science, as well as to society's attitude to girls studying science.