Posted October 9, 2013 by Jim Barteck in Education

Keeping Girls on the STEM Career Track

STEM Girls Rock
STEM Girls Rock

We have a little girl whose future career choices change every few months. When Mommy had a baby boy, she decided she was going to be an obstetrician. Before that it has been a race car driver, chaffeur, chef, neurosurgeon, veterinarian, as well as many others. She would even sometimes decide to do all of them simultaneously: a different one each day of the week. She would do all of those careers while also being a stylist too, of course. Her current choice du jour is being a doctor in mathematics. She will study robots too, but she’s going to do math the most. And, of course, she’ll still be a stylist too.

This is a particularly important topic in our home as both her mother and grandmother have explained that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers were not something which were ever really “on the table” for them as young women. They were encouraged to seek careers in the liberal arts or health fields (not as doctors, but nurses), but no one ever seriously discussed careers like being a physicist or engineer with them. Obviously, that’s not a mistake I want to repeat with my daughter. So how does a dad go about supporting his daughter in choosing a STEM career?

IMACS (Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science) put together a wonderful resource page for parents who want to keep their daughters on track for a STEM career, or even just expose them to the possibility. It includes some great advice like involving them, from a young age, in science and math enrichment projects as well as doing your best to surround them with other girls who have similar interests in order to avoid negative peer pressure influences. Very importantly, they also provide links to a number of organizations – many of which are specifically dedicated to encouraging, helping and mentoring girls who would like to pursue STEM careers.

Who knows if our daughter will want to pursue mathematics and robotics two months from now. Given the laundry list of career choices she’s already run through, we may well be onto being a high-powered, wheeling-dealing business executive or even a guide on Mt. Everest by then. (That’s provided she’ll still be able to be a stylist on the side too, of course.) But as long as a STEM career is something she wants to pursue, I owe it to her to do whatever I can to help her along that path. Plus I don’t know about you, but the idea of having a daughter who will be capable of designing a robot to do Daddy’s chores when she grows up sounds like a pretty awesome plan to me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go follow those links in the IMACS article to see how we can make that happen.

Jim Barteck