One of the greatest figures in film and television is, in my opinion, a man named Joss Whedon. It may seem odd to begin an article about the importance of girls in STEM with a male television writer, director, and producer, but Joss is different. He is notorious for writing and bringing to life well-rounded, strong female characters. Due to this fantastic habit, he is frequently asked by the media, “So why do you write these strong women into your shows?”
His typical response is concise, slightly sarcastic, and utterly perfect, “Because you’re still asking me that question.”
There are many possible answers to the similar question of, “Why is it important to involve girls in STEM-related fields?”
The familiar statistic: Women earn slightly more than half of all bachelor’s degrees, yet only 14% of STEM graduates are female.
The female empowerment side, related to the familiar statistic: We need to change the numbers. Equality means that 50% of STEM graduates should, ideally, be women. Or at least that women should have the same opportunities and exposure to technology when they’re young that men do.
Those reasons are true. The statistics are troubling, and we do need to balance the numbers—which were climbing steadily, only to decline again in recent years.
But what about outside the usual? At the core, in the end, why is it important to involve girls in STEM-related fields at a young age, to encourage them to pursue whatever career they choose, to not limit themselves or let themselves be limited?
Image credit: code.org
Think of all the closed doors, all the un-found solutions, all the cures for diseases and answers to unsolvable math problems and undiscovered spatial anomalies and unthought-of inventions that girls and women could be finding, curing, solving, discovering and thinking of.
What if we could have had the cure for cancer already, if one little girl in Kansas had been encouraged to go into medicine? What if we could have had a human colony on Mars by now, if one little girl in Oregon had been shown how to use a computer at seven? Young girls, like this author from the White House Council for Women and Girls, get “counseled out” of STEM fields; they are actually discouraged from pursuing these degrees. But what if they didn't? What if they were inspired instead?
It’s important to involve girls and women in STEM so they have the opportunity to make discoveries and find solutions. So they’re not limited, which means neither is humanity.
So, in the end, why is it important to involve girls and women in STEM?
As Joss Whedon would say: because the world is still asking that question.
Do you know a young girl with a thirst to learn? Check out Alexa Café or iD Tech Camps. And, iD Tech is partnering with Code.org, a non-profit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science, to send 100 girls (ages 7–17) to iD Tech Camps for free. Apply for a scholarship here before April 1, 2015.
Header Image credit: Gage Skidmore