Building a STEM Pipeline for Girls and Women
Our society tells girls and women that they don’t belong in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. As early as first grade, children have already developed a sense of gender identity, and most have developed unconscious bias associating boys with math. Toys still reinforce rigid, highly gendered stereotypes that encourage only boys to build or engineer. And even kids’ clothing still proclaims that girls are bad at math.
At almost every step of the STEM education ladder, we see girls walk away. By seventh grade, many girls are ambivalent about these fields, and by the end of high school, fewer girls than boys plan to pursue STEM in college. Especially in engineering, physics, and computing, female college students are likely to be outnumbered by men in their programs. With some important exceptions, schools dedicate few resources to recruiting and retaining students in fields that are non-traditional for their gender. Women who do graduate with a STEM degree enter a workforce that is historically unfriendly to them. And once they get there, stereotypes, gender bias, and the climate of academic departments and workplaces continue to block women’s participation and progress.
But the low number of women and girls pursuing STEM fields is not a status quo we can live with. It has significant implications for women’s financial security, economic growth, and global innovation.
AAUW is committed to encouraging women and girls to pursue STEM, and we have a multipronged approach to make it happen. Here’s a look at our STEM strategy.
Research Is the Foundation
You can’t solve a problem if you don’t understand it. AAUW’s research elucidates the environmental and social barriers that face women and girls in STEM and offers pragmatic recommendations for families, schools, communities, industry, and beyond.
Solving the Equation: Women in Engineering and Computing
This report features the latest data on women’s achievement in subjects related to engineering and computing, how few women are working in these fields, and what can be done.
Why Are There So Few Women in STEM?
In 2010, we released a groundbreaking report on the environmental and social barriers to women’s participation and progress in STEM. The report also included statistics on girls’ and women’s achievements and participation in these areas and offered new ideas on how to fully open STEM fields to all.
STEM Programs for Girls
Not all STEM education takes place in the classroom. AAUW members provide community programs that break down stereotypes about STEM and show girls that intellectual skills grow over time, regardless of gender. These programs create an environment where girls are encouraged to expand their knowledge and ability in STEM through fun and educational activities. And they foster girls’ excitement for STEM, rather than dim it.
These programs take place on a national scale but draw on the hard work and community knowledge of local AAUW members. In one year alone, AAUW organized more than 150 STEM programs in 35 states and 93 congressional districts, reaching more than 10,000 girls and their families.
A weeklong science and math summer camp for eighth-grade girls.
A daylong STEM conference for middle school girls and their families.
Investing in STEM Education
One of the world’s largest sources of funding for graduate women, AAUW invests in women studying everything from aerospace engineering to astrophysics. Our fellowships increase participation where women traditionally have been underrepresented.
AAUW’s funding has a ripple effect. We prioritize women with an active commitment to helping women and girls through service in their communities, professions, or fields of research.
A Voice for STEM on Capitol Hill and in
With a national policy strategy, a strong grassroots, and motivated volunteer activists, AAUW works at all levels of government to advocate for policies that increase access to STEM education for women and girls. In the past year alone, AAUW advocates sent tens of thousands of messages to members of Congress from all 50 states.
Our key policy recommendations for STEM include
- Increasing funding for STEM education
- Promoting computer science in K–12 public education
- Creating a STEM education and career readiness fund for our future STEM workforce