Girls and boys taking science and math classes progress at an even pace from grade school through high school. And yet in college, only 20% of women earn a STEM (science technology engineering math) degree. Choosing STEM career can be linked to whether a young woman has a mentor early on who inspires her to pursue one of these fields of study.
Heidi Kleinbach-Sauter, SVP Global Foods R&D PepsiCo, Inc. is featured in the My Story/My Advice Project for Women in STEM (WIS) and feels that the mentoring she received before entering college truly made the difference for her in choosing a STEM field:
“Mentors and sponsors play a critical role in bringing new people — and particularly women — to careers in STEM. Female leaders must be role models to advocate for the possibilities of STEM education and support programs that inspire and actively support more of our best and brightest students, especially those from underrepresented or disadvantaged groups, to study in STEM fields. In my role, I am able to mentor and help sponsor young employees and encourage students to see STEM in a different light” Kleinbach-Sauter said.
Mentors have the ability to influence girls and young women to choose a fulfilling career and guide them to explore a STEM field. When you ask a leader why she chose STEM over another field they can point to one person, often an educator, who encouraged and believed in her ability. Finding the right mentor is key to helping girls stay in STEM fields.
Here are 3 tips to get girls involved in STEM:
Finding A STEM Program: Many schools are affiliated with colleges and universities and have resources that augment the curriculum. Programs like the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University cater to students looking for additional learning opportunities in fields like STEM. Look for possible classes that interest her at a local college and see if they have mentors who work with students.
After School STEM Activities: Determine the area of study she likes and encourage her to join a club like Math Counts or other similar programs that meet before or after school. Often the teachers involved in these extra-curricular activities are thrilled to have students interested in learning more. Having a teacher at school to encourage her will help when she is undecided about a school schedule. Support is critical to understanding the full scope of options available in school and as a career.
STEM Summer Fun! Summer is approaching and there are many camps that offer programs with interesting classes using science and math skills. Find one that appeals to her and engage in a discussion with the teacher. The program can build more than just math and science skills it will help her feel confident in all her subjects.
The biggest way to support your daughter in STEM is to encourage her to continue with math and science even after high school. Although many colleges require at least 3 or 4 years in high school, higher education really offers the broadest variety of classes. Knowing what is out there in the field and the wide range of jobs available may help her continue taking STEM classes.
Have you had a mentor that made a difference? How did you find that person and what was the biggest way they helped you? We would love to feature you in our inspiration page or hear your story below.