STEMEd For Girls: An Experiment with Promising Results

In the summer of 2021, more than 600 teen girls from across the U.S and the U.K. took part in AAUW’s inaugural STEMEd for Girls virtual workshop series, which was designed exclusively for girls in grades 9 through 12 and their parents and guardians. The program, which was made possible through the generous support of Arconic Foundation, was designed to pave the way for girls’ STEM success in college and beyond. We especially encouraged girls of color to participate.

About the Program

The girls took part in six 1.5-hour virtual sessions over two months that showcased how accessible and exciting STEM fields can be. With the help of 12 STEM “Ambassadors”—a diverse group of scientists and educators who are leaders in their fields—STEMEd for Girls provided advice and inspiration while highlighting a variety of subjects, including biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, math and technology.

The workshops included three major components: mentorship, interactive virtual labs, and explorations of various careers and skill areas. The STEMEd for Girls staff and STEM Ambassadors shared studying strategies, tips on preparing for college, and resources for getting educational funding.

Why It Matters

Research shows that girls are systematically tracked away from science and math throughout their education—which limits their training and options as adults. Black and Latina girls are even more likely to be dissuaded from STEM due to racism and reduced access to critical resources, opportunities and role models.

When it comes to setting girls up for STEM success, ensuring they have support from their caregivers is an important piece of the puzzle. That’s why AAUW engaged this group from the outset, focusing two of the six sessions on giving hands-on guidance to parents and guardians.

Who Took Part

Altogether, 315 caregivers joined the 600+ teen girls who participated in the program. In addition, we reached our goal of reaching many girls of color: 37% of registrants were Black/African American, 18% were Latina, 17% Asian, 13% Caucasian and 2% Middle Eastern. (An additional 13% identified as Caucasian and 13% as “Other.”) More than half were freshmen and sophomores in high school.

Initial feedback to the series has been positive. “This session has really got me considering [how] to be more interactive with my STEM classes!” said one participant. According to another, “these types of sessions will help me in the future as a Hispanic female who strives to be in a STEM career.”

Looking Ahead

During the final session of the series, the participants—including both the girls and their caregivers—set goals and created plans for meeting them. Now, buoyed by the program’s success, AAUW is doing the same. We’re already hard at work figuring out other ways to encourage girls to explore STEM fields, so stay tuned for many more programs to come.