Girls in STEM, Reppin’ Femme

by Grace Masback

April Ludgate of Parks and Recreation killin it at the computer

To me, it’s common knowledge that girls are smarter than boys. In my experience, we consistently score better on tests, get into better colleges, have more original ideas. We are better at collaborating, staying focused, and getting things done. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 68% of women enroll in college (compared to 63% of men), and women increasingly outnumber men in college graduation rates.

The one area where boys have consistently surpassed girls is in the area of technology. Young boys and girls are typically at about equal levels when it comes to technology, but by 8th grade, girls start to slip behind. By 12th grade, there is a clear gender divide. The divide becomes even more stark in high-tech professions. The world of technology and website development is clearly a world of men. The fact that only 30% of Google’s workforce is female says a lot. Last year, women made up only 26% of the high tech workforce.

But, things are looking up — a new study form the National Assessment of Education Progress shows that women are poised to establish their rightful place at the forefront of technology. The study, which aimed to test technology achievement and literacy among young girls and boys, was administered in 2014. It looked at 21,000 8th grade students at 800 public and private schools across the United States. Each girl was given a comprehensive, multi-media test that challenged their ability to use technology, to think critically, and to analyze situations using technologically-based reasoning. While there was a difference between girls in suburban and urban environments, the results were clear — 8th grade girls have a greater degree of engineering and technology literacy than their male counterparts.

The results are exciting. Researchers speculate that the higher scores are partly based on the ability of girls to communicate, collaborate, and solve problems more effectively than boys. They also say that the results show that while many girls didn’t have computer or technology classes at school, they are mastering many of the key skills through self-teaching, yet another testament to the ingenuity, willpower, and creativity inherent to girls.

This study, and its identification of the technological aptitude of girls, got me thinking. Too often, technology gets a bad rap with girls because it seems daunting or unappealing. When I think of a computer programmer, I visualize a 20-something male, dirty, gross t-shirts, and pizza stains. I certainly wouldn’t want to get involved in technology with that image in my mind.

But, technology offers so much more than that. The great thing about girls in technology is that our inherent creativity gives us the power to use it to innovate and make change — use STEM to find ways to be creative and different. As girls, we need to start employing our technological advantage to dominate in all walks of life. In a world where technology is an expected norm, mastering it doesn’t mean that you have to be a programmer. No, technology can be used to design an app, but it can also be used to design a gown.

This is an important conversation to consider. One of the reasons that young girls are falling behind in technology is that they aren’t excited about it. We need to start undoing the stereotypes surrounding what a high-tech career involves.

You can do so much with technology, and in an increasingly tech-focused world having a knowledge of technology is more important than ever. As young girls, we need to help change the conversation and show the intersections between technology, media, art, and entertainment. Young girls have the knowledge and now we need to show them what they can do about it.

So, think about technology, get interested, and get involved. We have the brainpower, so lets use that in all fields, in all areas, to start representing ourselves in currently male-dominated professions. We always knew we deserve to be treated equally— and now we have the proof. Lets do something about it.



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