If society plays its cards right, we could soon enter a time when anyone can wear a lab coat, and that’s really cool. Schools, businesses, nonprofits, governments and militaries around the world are slowly waking up to the need to close the gender gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields, and girls are succeeding more every day in these industries and classrooms.
We need to do better for girls in many ways, including expanding their opportunities and encouraging their engagement in STEM, but we also need to commemorate every great step along the way.
So, on the eve of a very STEM-y holiday, Pi Day—which happens to take place during Women’s History Month—we’re going to celebrate the girls in the last couple weeks who have shown us what the future looks like.
Partnership, Leadership, Growth
Earlier this week, the Steph and Ayesha Curry Foundation announced a scholarship program, inspired by their new 9-year-old fashion partner, Riley Morrison, to get more girls into STEM careers. The program awards an annual $30,000 scholarship to a girl from the San Francisco Bay Area as long as she continues enrolling in at least two STEM courses and maintains a 3.0 college GPA.
Riley is a student who made news last November when she wrote Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry to ask why his Under Armour basketball shoes were unavailable for girls.
“I know you support girl athletes because you have two daughters and you host an all-girls basketball camp,” Riley wrote in her note to the two-time NBA MVP.
Curry and his wife, Ayesha, listened. Not only did they ensure that his signature Curry 5 shoes would be available in the girls’ sections at shoe stores, but he had Riley assist on the design of the newest iteration, the Curry 6.
Oh, by the way: They’re sold out now.
The Cookie Sales Go To STEM
Enterprising girls like Riley can be found throughout the country in organizations like the Girl Scouts. That’s why the Girl Scouts have decided to make STEM one of the fundamental things they teach girls.
“We’re trying to expose them to those kinds of activities early, and to pique their interest early in science, technology and engineering,” said the Decatur Girl Scouts’ Kourtney Pygott to the Herald & Review.
Following Through With Higher Ed
Penn State is doing something really exciting called the Lenfest Scholars Program. In cooperation with Philadelphia’s Mastery Charter Schools and the Philadelphia Futures project, the program grants financial aid to low-income students. This week, Dia L. Jones announced the 2019 round of the STEM entrants into the program:
All of the hard work, blood, sweat and tears are worth it when your STEM girls earn full Lenfest Scholarships to Penn State!! They deserve it and it pushes us to keep fighting! I can't wait to see the many successes of these young ladies. #FreedomFighters #SocialJusticeWarriors pic.twitter.com/p8NL97W0Vi
— Dia L. Jones (@dia_ljones) March 9, 2019
These girls’ skills and perspectives will be nurtured through campus housing, individual academic counselors and other supports as they work their way through the program.
Connecting Girls Across the Ocean, Too
But it’s not just American girls leading the way on STEM. Ireland’s Image interviewed 12-year-old Aoibheann Mangan, who became the European Union’s Digital Girl of the Year 2017-18 for encouraging girls to participate in these technological fields.
Aoibheann’s message? To stop erasing women’s contributions in STEM fields.
When it comes to the case of girls and STEM, I’d like to say to parents and educators: ‘If you can’t see it, how can you be it?’ There are fabulous examples out there. They may not be the first ones to come up in Google searches, but sometimes they are better than the ones that do. Support us and show us!
Aoibheann’s bluntness is great, isn’t it? With girls like her, Riley, the Lenfest girls, all their peers in the Girl Scouts and across the nation leading the way, male-dominated STEM industries are about to get an influx of talent, perspective and extreme problem-solving potential.
Take it from Aoibheann, “I think it should be easier for women to get where they want to go without barriers of ‘it’s a man’s job’ in their way!”