Dr. Meghan R. Federer, Assistant Director, The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art, and Technology
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a scientist, an engineer, or even a technician. What do you see? Or perhaps more importantly, whom do you see? Who do your children see when asked this question?
We live in a rapidly evolving community with an increasing demand for candidates to fill Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) career pathways. A brief search brings up more than 4500 jobs in STEM fields currently posted within Licking County. Yet, only 28% of young children, on average, envision and draw female scientists, engineers, and technicians1. As Millers’ (2018) study notes, this is much improved from the average of 1% documented in the 1960s; however, current research still supports that the tendency to gender stereotype increases with age. Younger children are more likely to represent STEM careers as 50/50 male and female, but by the age of eight, they are more likely to represent the same careers as male.
So how do we, as parents, teachers, and role models, change the face of STEM in our community? How do we empower young women to pursue an interest in STEM? A simple recommendation? Exposure. A key step to imagining yourself in a role, be it a classical hero/heroine in an adventure story or scientist in a research lab (or both!), is to see yourself represented in those fields. In other words, we need to see it, to be it. Being intentional about representation in the books, posters, and other resources that your children explore allows them to see themselves in these roles. Take advantage of the free or low cost STEM activities available in our community through the library systems, park districts, and The Works. Explore online resources such as Girls Who Code and See It, Be It, STEM It to discover new role models and career stories.
As a community, we must work together to realize the full potential of all our children. That starts with providing a variety of experiences and opportunities right here in Licking County. Together, we can shift the perception of STEM careers and empower the next generation of STEM in our community.
1Miller, D.I., Nolla, K. M., Eagly, A. H., & Uttal, D.H. (2018). The development of Childrens Gender-Science Stereotypes: A Meta-analysis of 5 decades of U.S. Draw-A-Scientist Studies. Child Development, 89(6), 1943-1955.