Think about a scientist. What do they look like? I can almost assume that most people imagined the stereotypically white, male scientist we see in every textbook and movie.
Often times, we neglect thinking about scientists who are women and/or of color because it has been shown to us, since our first science classes, that science is dominated by white men. Don’t believe me? Here’s some statistics from ngcproject.org:
- 62% women work in social sciences but only 15% engineering and 25% mathematical sciences
- 11.1% of physicists and astronomers are women
- 35.2% of chemists are women
- 7.9% of mechanical engineers are women
- Hispanics, blacks, and Native American/Alaska Natives make up a smaller proportion of the science and engineering workforce (11%) than their proportion in the general public
- In 2013, 70% of workers in science and engineering were white
Now these numbers should cause some discomfort. STEM has always been a predominantly male field that we’ve learned to accept when we were just children. According to ngcproject.org, boys and girls both succeeded in STEM related classes when in K-12 education but once higher education began, gender disparities came to the surface. In 2012, as little as 11.2% of bachelor degrees in science and engineering were awarded to minority women.
What can we as future educators do to help?
Before getting into how future science teachers can help to encourage women and minorities to go into STEM, here is a TEDx Talk from scientist Nicole Salazar:
It all comes down to EQUITY, which is the quality of being fair and impartial. Many people think that equality for women and minorities is needed in STEM, but in reality it’s based on equity, which is giving everyone what they need to be successful.
Curiosity in science starts from the minute students begin exploring and learning about the world. Using STEM activities, that are hands-on, will fulfill this need to explore and might be more fun than just reading the textbook and answering questions. Also, exposing them to scientists and engineers that are women or minorities will show them that everyone can be a scientist versus just showing the same picture of Albert Einstein with his tongue out for the 80th time.
According to weareteachers.com, here are 5 things teachers can do to encourage more girls and minorities to get interested in STEM
- Emphasize the creativity in engineering
- Engineering can involve innovative ideas and artistic abilities as well as the analytical side
- Ask your students what their interested in, then DO IT
- Put tools in their hands and let them experiment
- Giving young students tools and science equipment in the classroom can foster that curiosity, young
- Surround them with support
- Encourage young girls and minorities to join clubs and find other people that are interested in STEM
- A good support system is beneficial to anyone interested in science
- Connect with women and minorities working in STEM careers, RIGHT NOW
- Allowing young students to see that everyone can be a scientist will more likely push girls and students of different backgrounds to consider a STEM future