Inspiring girls and women into STEM

Francesca Maclean, BSc ’13, BEng (Hons) ’13, PhD ’17, argues for an end to gender stereotypes that prevent women from entering this field.

We don’t need to inspire more young girls and women into STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We need to stop telling them they can’t do it in the first place.

Telling girls and young women that they need to become interested in STEM, as though they never were or couldn’t naturally be and so need more encouragement, reinforces a shallow understanding of the insidious contributors to gender inequity in STEM.

We need to remove the systemic cultural biases in society and STEM industries that prevent women from entering and staying in STEM, instead of putting the onus on women and girls.

Girls aren’t born with an affinity for humanities over STEM; as a society, we encourage gender segregation into subjects from an early age.

Little girls are often given books and dolls to play with, whereas little boys are given trucks and construction sets that can help develop fine motor and visual-spatial reasoning skills.

This bias, even in toy making, is what prompted the business, GoldieBlox, a construction toy which is design to develop young girls’ interest in engineering and confidence in problem solving to ‘disrupt the pink aisle’. It is one small step to fix a very big problem.