Project Eve is thrilled to announce a new contest supporting girls and their pursuit of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)! As a component of our partnership with Corning, we are teaming up with TechSavvyMama.com and Microsoft to promote an opportunity for one lucky girl to win a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and a trip to visit Corning’s headquarters with a parent this summer. To kick off this promotion, we invited Leticia Barr, founder of Tech Savvy Mama, former teacher, and school administrator to tell us more about the contest and why supporting girls’ interest in STEM is so important.
- How do we encourage interest in science and technology among daughters of people who are not in technical fields themselves? Do you think it’s a matter of making science “cool” for girls, or is there something else at play?
One of the ways that we can encourage science and technology among daughters of people who are not in technical fields is to provide learning opportunities and experiences about STEM fields. There are numerous types of jobs that use science, technology, engineering, and math in different ways and it’s important to show our girls the various career types available to them by providing them with experiences that highlight these jobs.
Instead of making science “cool” for girls, it’s critical to provide various points of entry for girls at a young age that tap into their interests and make them curious to learn more. Some might gravitate to toys on the market such as GoldieBlox, Roominate, and littleBits that encourage hands-on exploration of circuitry through building while others might have an “ah-ha” moment when they see how computer animation builds on their love of art. Those who love computer games like Minecraft could expand their love of gaming by learning how to code using beginning programming tools like Scratch to make their own games. Those with a love of accessorizing might gravitate towards Jewelbots, a brand new wearable that girls can program to light up for different reasons (i.e. their best friend has sent a text, another friend wearing a Jewelbot is nearby, etc.)
In-person opportunities are also critical to allowing girls to explore different aspects of STEM. Area Maker Faires that showcase technology like 3D printing and inspire a love of making can serve as an entry point. School STEM nights are also great ways to build community involvement around STEM subjects and can be as simple as getting a speaker in a STEM field to come and talk about their career or providing an engaging hands-on activity. There are so many endless possibilities for getting girls interested in STEM as long as opportunities, materials, and encouragement are provided along the way.
- Why do you think girls have shied away from these STEM specialties?
I think that girls have shied away from STEM in the past because of the stigma that these subjects were nerdy, geeky, and anything but cool. Through various avenues, girls received the message that it wasn’t cool to be smart and boys were better at math and science.
Thankfully we’re seeing a shift in this mindset where girls are encouraged to be smart and pursue these subjects but it takes more than encouragement. Girls need to have opportunities to pursue STEM topics that are of interest to them and be shown the various career paths that amazing women in the field have pursued. Today’s girls also need good role models and mentors who can help foster their interests at critical ages and provide guidance through mentorship.
- As a former teacher yourself, what can K-12 teachers do to interest more girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects?
Teachers are critical role models to girls when it comes to fostering a love of STEM subjects who can easily convey their love of learning about the subjects with their students. Girls need to have positive role models and encouragement from the adults around them. Teachers do so much more than teach. It’s also their job to inspire, mentor, and encourage girls to pursue their passion for these subjects.
- How have your own experiences as a woman in the technology sector shaped the perspective you bring to your own daughter?
My own interest in STEM comes from my mom who retired from teaching after 30+ years just as my daughter, Emily, was born. She was a skilled elementary educator who sought out science professional development to bring authentic learning experiences into her classroom for her students and always encouraged discovery and exploration at home. My mom always encouraged me to be curious and to think like a scientist by asking good questions and experimenting as part of the scientific process. She had a “sky’s the limit” attitude and made me feel like I could do anything and be anyone who I wanted to be.
When I think about the way that I parent my own children, my parenting style is very similar to my parents’. My mom and dad opened doors for me through the things we were exposed to as kids. The way we talked about science in our home, opportunities we had to think and act like scientists, ways we engaged with technology even at a young age (I grew up in Silicon Valley and my mom brought home her classroom computer each summer when I was in elementary school), and learned from my dad who is an engineer, all contributed to my ability to learn about STEM subjects because they were part of my world. My mom’s background in teaching science and my dad’s career as an engineer made me aware of STEM in my life and as possible careers.
As a mom with a 12 year old daughter in middle school, I am well aware of the research that shows girls start losing interest in math and science during these years. The Girl Scouts’ Generation STEM Report called attention to statistics I already knew about including:
- Girls are typically more interested in careers where they can help others (e.g., teaching, child care, working with animals) and make the world a better place Girls and young women are much less interested than boys and young men in math and science
- A national report on college freshmen major/career interests shows that on average, 20% of young women intend to major in a STEM field, compared to 50% of young men
- 32% of girls ages 13-17 thought that computing would be a good college major, compared to 74% of boys in the same age range
The report cited lack of interest, stereotypes about girls doing poorly in math, low confidence in their abilities, or a general lack of well-roundedness in girls that leads many to turning to their high verbal skills during career planning.
Knowing these statistics, I am doing everything in my power to keep Emily engaged with the STEM subjects she loves. It’s important to me and my husband to provide varied experiences to our kids to expose them to STEM, encourage them to pursue their interest to learn more about a topic that has sparked their interest at school, and be their role models.
I am fortunate that my husband and I both work in technology related fields. I joke that the engineering gene runs strong in our family because my father and brother have backgrounds in engineering but my husband is also an engineer, working in technology on wifi architecture. Because of what we do, our kids are constantly exposed to STEM.
But I know that exposure is only part of the challenge that we parents face in getting our kids engaged in STEM. The interest has to be innate and I love that Emily asked my husband to teach her how to code two summers ago and that was her entry into programming. She’s a skilled programmer who will be about to out-program me soon (she codes in Python and Java), loves science, enjoys the challenge of beginning algebra, and thinks like a scientist and engineer.
Despite her current interest in STEM, I do worry that Emily will become a statistic, choosing other subjects in favor of science, technology, engineering, and math but until then, I will do everything I can to serve as a source of encouragement and inspiration.
- Tell us a bit more about the extraordinary program that Corning is sponsoring for girls on Tech Savvy Mama?
In January I had the opportunity to visit Corning Headquarters in Corning, New York. While there I met with scientists in the labs and saw some of the incredible work they’re doing to create Corning® Gorilla® Glass 4, more damage resistant touchscreen glass that helps protect our phones even when dropped. Since we constantly rely on our digital devices, scientists in the research and development facilities perform laboratory tests where devices are dropped and the way glass breaks is studied. Information from the research is then used by Corning’s research team that includes women scientists who work to solve tough challenges daily.
During my visit I kept wishing that Emily was with me to see the work that female scientists are doing. Not only would their work be inspiring to a 12 year old girl but the chance to interact with and learn from them in their labs would be an unforgettable experience. I knew that any of the women scientists at Corning would be amazing mentors for a new generation of girls.
- Tell us about the “Women who Innovate Tough” contest? How can parents enter and for a chance to win?
The desire to have my daughter learning alongside me at Corning sparked an idea to have parents share the different ways our girls are using technology to solve tough challenges in education that became “Women Who Innovate Tough.” Technology allows our girls to learn in ways that were never possible when I was a child. Mobile devices have changed the way today’s generation learns because they help our kids learn how and where they want.
In order to celebrate the tough challenges that girls are able to face thanks to technology, one very lucky parent-daughter pair will have the opportunity to visit Corning with me and Emily this summer and will receive a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 to continue learning through Corning® Gorilla® Glass. In order to enter, parents can tweet their answer to this question, tagging @CorningGorilla, and using the hashtag #LearningThroughGorillaGlass:
What did your daughter learn today with help from her mobile device?
Tweet w/ #LearningThroughGorillaGlass for a chance to meet @CorningGorilla women innovators
Additional contest parameters are available here.
It’s great to be supporting with Microsoft for this program because the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is a fabulous educational tool for today’s generation of learners. Not only is it sleek, powerful, and highly portable but it uses durable and scratch resistant Gorilla Glass 4. Since Gorilla Glass 4 is 2x tougher than competitive glass designs during laboratory tests, it’s a feature in any laptop, tablet, and mobile phone that puts parents’ minds at ease when it comes to damage from drops that can occur while girls are learning.
Thanks, Leticia! Now, let’s spread the word about this awesome opportunity! Please share this with teachers, parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, and godparents. We want to make sure loads of girls interested in STEM enter, so they have the opportunity to win a great trip and a great device!
This blog post was sponsored by Corning Incorporated the opinions and text are all ours.