Building a STEM Pipeline for Girls and Women
Our society tells women they don’t belong in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Toys made for girls reinforce rigid, highly gendered stereotypes that encourage only boys to build or engineer. There are scarcely any female role models at the top of STEM fields. 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, most girls have lost interest in these fields, and few high school girls plan to pursue STEM in college. Those who do will likely be a minority in their programs and aren’t likely to find much support in their studies. The few remaining women will graduate to a workforce that is historically unfriendly to women. 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.
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.
Moving the Needle: Women in Engineering and Computing
AAUW’s upcoming research report will look at why women are so underrepresented in engineering and computer science fields.
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.
AAUW members across the country empower girls in their communities with STEM programs that work.
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