This semester I have learned a lot about the gender gap in STEM and why it exists and have also developed the groundwork to start outreach programming next semester. The main takeaways from my research pertain to why girls leave STEM and the most effective ways to bring more girls into STEM.
Some of the main reasons girls leave STEM at a young age are low competency belief, stereotype threat, and a lack of female role models. My club will address each of these issues on different ways. First, girls were found to benefit more from outside of the classroom engagement with science than boys because it had a greater effect on raising their competency belief. Girls’ competency belief has a greater impact on whether or not they enjoy science than boys, so it is important to develop a growth mindset. This means that girls will believe that being successful in science comes from hard work and passion rather than natural abilities. Stereotype threat is another issue that girls face. Whether they’re aware of it or not, everyone has some sort of perception about how gender plays a role in different areas of school work. Girls are often seen to be more hard working, so their successes are attributed to the hard work rather than talent. The idea that one might mess up due to stereotypes they have heard about gender is stereotype threat and can be very impactful in the level of success within science. My club will also provide young girls with role models who are not yet super far in their careers. Davidson students can provide a system of support and a way for girls to identify themselves as potential future scientists.
I feel very good about where I am right now with the club. We many interested club members and 2 elementary schools who are very excited to work with us. We will receive funding from the Communuty Fund to support our need for supplies. When we get back to school I will meet with the club in order to get everyone comfortable with eachother and see if anyone has any ideas for science projects they’re interested in or future directions of this club.