In 2015, women made up 47% of the workforce in the United States, yet held only 24% of the jobs in STEM fields. Many schools are now expanding their STEM programs, and are especially encouraging girls to pursue these fields. Why is it that women are underrepresented in STEM fields, and what can you do to help your daughter pursue these fields?
She's Just as Good as He is
One of the biggest keys to success in any STEM field is strong math skills. Unfortunately, many girls think they’re not good at math. In reality, boys and girls are equally skilled at math; it is the perception of ability that creates the problem. While boys and girls have similar math skills, girls are often better at reading and writing. Because of this, they perceive their math skills as being weaker. This makes them less inclined to practice and pursue math. Their aversion to practicing math then creates a vicious circle where their skills become weaker- not due to lack of ability, but lack of practice. Math is a skill that needs to be practiced just like playing an instrument or learning a new sport. Young girls shouldn’t feel like a failure in math just because they’re even better at something else! Helping them practice and refine their skills can empower them and make them feel confident pursuing STEM fields.
Practice Makes Perfect
The best way you can help your daughter is to encourage and engage in persistent practice. There has been an trend in education where learning always needs to be fun and exciting. But it’s also really important to engage in rote practice, especially in things that don’t come easy. Not only does this help children actually understand the concept, but it also builds a strong work ethic. When we make everything fun, we take away children's willingness to work hard and overcome obstacles. When you help your daughter practice the math skills she struggles with, you’ll also build her confidence in that area, leading her to be more likely to pursue STEM fields and eventually help women be more represented in these fields.
So what can you do? Practice, practice, practice! It’s not enough to understand a skill; practice is key. Repetition creates the neural pathways needed to make skills second nature. By practicing with your daughter every day, you can help her be just as good at math as she is at reading and writing, thus making it an equally viable option in her mind.