Keeping Girls in STEM

Stereotypes and cultural conventions often discourage girls from choosing STEM fields, but educators can make simple changes to their procedures to help close the gap.

According to children, scientists and mathematicians are socially awkward men who wear glasses.


They discovered that girls were twice as likely as boys to draw a scientist or mathematician. Boys, on the other hand, drew virtually exclusively men in lab coats. Anyone, according to my 12-year-old kid, might be a mathematician. I agreed and drew a man wearing a pocket protector and a checked oxford shirt.

Girls are attracted to boys for a variety of reasons. children were asked can enter STEM fields-science, technology engineering, and mathematics at a significantly lower rate than their male counterparts is the persistent, subconscious images of male scientists and mathematicians that begin at the earliest age.

I am aware of gender gaps in engineering and computer science as an English teacher in a STEM magnet high school in New Jersey (CS). However, through coding camps, workshops, and other programming activities, our bright, intellectual girls work hard to disprove prejudices and recruit younger girls. Our teachers represent the STEM fields of a previous generation: Men make up three of the four CS teachers and engineers.

Surprisingly, girls’ arithmetic scores are higher than boys’. For girls, the national math test scores were

consistently equal to or within two points of boys in fourth- and eighth grade over many years. Middle school girls have higher algebra passing rates than boys. In science, girls do as well as boys. They enroll in advanced science

Boys and girls are taking the same courses. Then something unexpected happens. As girls move closer to attending college, a gender disparity in participation emerges. Girls are less likely to enroll in advanced STEM courses or take standardized tests. This disparity becomes more obvious the longer girls stay in school, and it frequently exacerbates racial and socioeconomic issues.

Researchers are unsure if the persisting STEM inequities are attributable to delayed social change or child-rearing expectations. Or maybe there’s something deeper and more ingrained, such as how we see girls’ thoughts. In STEM education, teachers can be a major influencer or debunk prejudices. Educators and scholars have shared their perspectives and ideas.


The problem: There may be a reason for gender differences in STEM participation. It could be due to the way we view scientists and mathematicians.

Stereotype threat –

According to experts, simply believing that one isn’t excellent at a task in a given group is associated with lower academic performance. If girls are made aware of this through both subtle and blatant cultural cues, it can make math and technology more challenging for them. Even the most astute young ladies may experience self-doubt as a result of this.

Teachers and curriculum can both influence these perceptions.

A striking study

In 2015, Israeli researchers published a study. It was discovered that sixth-grade examinations were graded in two groups. One was internally rated and included the names of the students. The other was not assessed internally but was externally graded. Boys were given a better mark in math by teachers than girls, but external graders gave them a higher grade. Low teacher grades have deterred girls for years.

Teachers are notorious for their biases. The majority of primary school teachers are female, and they are often apprehensive about teaching mathematics. This is a possibility. result in lower achievement for girls. This can continue into high school where anxious teachers may be too dependent on textbooks and rote ways of instructing. These same textbooks may trigger self-doubt in girls subconsciously. One study showed female high school students did better when they looked at chemistry textbooks featuring photographs of female scientists than when they looked at textbooks with solely pictures of male scientists.

Teachers can create a growth attitude in kids by emphasizing the value of effort over the natural ability to enhance performance, according to researchers.

Other studies have shown Short, targeted treatments that educate pupils that intellect can be boosted via training and hard work can benefit them. This quality is extremely crucial for female scientists and mathematicians.

Including images of female scientists and mathematicians in instructional materials can assist to influence preconceptions about who belongs.

Teachers may also need to consider how they might combat gender bias in STEM fields.

“It starts with a belief. These expectations I have for all my students. That all children can learn. Every teacher doesn’t have this belief,” Cicely Woodard, middle school math teacher from Franklin, Tennessee, and the state’s 2018 teacher of the year.

“I feel the youngsters will be exposed to this stuff as soon as they enter the building.”

Female teachers should avoid using terms that reflect their discomfort with arithmetic (e.g., “I’m terrible at math” or “This can be difficult”) and instead utilize creative projects that demonstrate their true interest in the topic, according to Jo Boaler, a Stanford University researcher. They may desire to grade anonymously at times.


The issue is that it’s probable that our perceptions of math aptitude—and the financial and academic support that comes with it—have a greater impact on achievement than sheer ability. This is notably true for low-income students, as well as African-American and Latina women, who are less likely to take advanced STEM courses later in life.

In ethnically mixed districts, girls outperform boys in arithmetic, according to research by Stanford University’s Sean Reardon. Boys, on the other hand, fare better in more affluent locations. Parents in higher-income areas, he claims, are more able and willing to invest in enrichment programs for their children, such as robotics camps or theatrical workshops. This notion, however, is incompatible with stereotyping.

ypes. These children may be more likely than others to see men working as engineers or doctors in STEM fields.

Additionally, research has “clearly [indidicated] that black girls see themselves as outsiders in mathematics and teachers regard them as outsiders,” said Nicole Joseph, assistant professor in mathematics education at Vanderbilt University. Joseph points out that black students are restricted from rigorous math education because they have difficulty accessing tracking in math. This is more prevalent in middle school and high schools than in the humanities.

Solutions Joseph and her coauthors reviewed 62 studies about the perseverance and motivation of black women and girls to learn math. They found that there are several ways to build math identity and encourage interest in black girls. Schools can look at “structural disruptions” in the way math instruction is conducted. San Francisco Unified School District recently removed accelerated math

from middle school to ninth grade, allowing all students to study Algebra I. This effectively ceased tracking, resulting in higher algebra test scores and lower repeat rates for all students (including black and Latino).

Extracurricular and co-curricular programs, single-sex programs, teacher education in culturally sensitive teaching strategies, black role models in STEM, and teacher training in multiculturally responsive teaching strategies are all examples of “community influences, resilience strategies,” according to Joseph.

Educators like Norman Alston (a Seattle schoolteacher) and Patricia Brown (a Ladue, Missouri technology integration expert) stimulate girls’ mathematical curiosity through after-school STEM activities. Alston insists that his program’s middle school graduates teach younger children. Brown also brings in a guest lecturer or specialist to address her female students. This provides students with role models in the form of strong, successful female scientists and mathematicians.


The problem is Research shows that format is important when it comes to STEM education and learning.

A recent analysis of admission tests for elite New York City high school found that girls at Stuyvesant High Schools (considered to be the most rigorous) had higher grades in a higher level math

However, they scored somewhat worse on the admissions exam as a whole, resulting in lower admission rates. Girls outperform boys on multiple-choice examinations but are less accurate in math, according to the study. This does not, however, imply that they are less capable in mathematics.

Stanford University’s research team analyzed 8 million national standardized exam scores.

Reardon & his colleagues

come to the same conclusion They discovered that gender disparities were linked to multiple-choice questions (rather than open-ended questions) and accounted for 25% of the variations in scores between males and girls.

Solutions: Teachers, particularly for girls, may wish to move away from multiple-choice tests, which are often a feature of science and math, and instead emphasize open-ended evaluations that allow students to demonstrate their proficiency through writing or word problems.

ShanaWhite is a part of a Georgia Tech pilot initiative that brings AP Computer Science to Atlanta students. She supplements online coursework with hands-on exercises and real-world examples to provide context for assignments.

White, who has a half-black student body, says, “When people argue that kids need grit, it irritates me. They’re resilient, and they need to know how to talk about it in class.”

Dr. Jill Marshall, associate director of UTeach at The University of Texas at Austin, a program aimed at addressing the problem of STEM teachers coming from a variety of backgrounds, believes it is critical to emphasize STEM’s interdisciplinary nature.

According to Marshall, project-based learning is more popular because it addresses issues that people care about.

She cites a 2008 National Academy of Engineering study that asked people whether they would like to be engineers. Girls were twice as likely to say no as boys. The girls said yes to the question “Design safe water systems, save the rainforest or use DNA to solve the crime.”