Recruiting Girls in STEM Classes

Ideas for adding (and keeping) girls in your classes

My why

I taught STEM at the elementary and middle school level for the last six years in Hays CISD. After working at the middle school level for several years, I realized that girls were not signing up for my STEM classes and when they did sign up, the few who were in the class did not continue on the next year. This was a problem.

I just completed my Masters in Educational Leadership and my major focus in research was what schools can do to "Recruit and Retain more girls in STEM." I learned a lot from my research and I had the opportunity to have an all-girls class at Wallace Middle School. This was one of my favorite teaching experiences.

I am also a mom to a three year old (and I will have another baby girl in May). I want my girls to know that they are good at Math and STEM and these careers are very possible for them.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I love talking about this topic and I have presented at various conferences and in different states. I would love to help you!

Ideas for Recruiting Girls in your STEM Classes

If you teach PLTW or you teach Computer Science classes, you may have seen that there is a shortage of girls in your classes. If not, consider yourself lucky!

Here are some of my ideas for recruiting and retaining girls in STEM.

1. Have pictures of girls in your classes doing stuff and put on a poster or have them displayed. I had a bulletin board in my room that was titled "Girls in STEM." I had pictures of girls in my classes working on projects and I had pictures of famous women in STEM.

2. Include female students in your presentation. If you are going to have a display in the library or in the gym, invite some of your current female students to participate.

3. Make it clear that there is a shortage of girls in STEM, but that there are so many cool opportunities for girls in STEM. Messages to girls about how they can change the world and help people with STEM career--really resonate with females. Let them know that they can make a difference in a STEM field. Let them know what they can do with a job in STEM or CS.

4. Have hands-on activities available for all students to participate in. Feel free to show a demo during your presentation. This will help all students see what they can do in your class.

5. Girls think people in STEM are boring, and nerdy with no social life. Let them know that is not true. There are some great examples of cool people in STEM. Here is one from Hour of Code:

6. Words matter. Avoid saying "If you like _______, you are a geek." (It happens!) And, verbs matter. Masculine verbs like "build" are a turn off for girls. Girls find words like create and design are more "girl friendly." They don't see themselves as builders, but they can see themselves as designers.

Once Girls are in your Classes

1. Allow them to partner with other girls. Most girls hate to be alone and really enjoy working in groups with people of their choosing.

2. Encourage all students (especially girls) to have a growth mindset. Girls tend to be more concerned than boys about grades, and when they get a low grade or their project doesn't work the first time, they can get very frustrated. Encouragement from their teacher to press on and learn from failure is vital.

3. Invite STEM professionals to come in a speak to your classes. Role Models and mentors have proved to be very important when times get tough. Mentors give girls someone to talk to who has been through a similar issue.

4. Make lab time available for girls (and all students) so they can have extra time to practice if needed.

My favorite resources and videos

Slideshow I made to present at the Texas PLTW Conference in Jan. of 2015:

Recruiting and Retaining Girls in STEM-A Best Practices Guide:

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day:

Great talking points! (Verizon's "Inspire her Mind) Commercial and an article from the Huffington Post:

Report from the Girl Scouts on what girls say about STEM:

I have TONS more resources (APA Citations), articles and my action research paper that I completed. Let me know if you need any more information and I will be happy to share it with you.

Girls and STEM: Adults, Think about your Messages!

The infographic I made to explain how "what you say matters."
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