Since 1913, Girl Scouts has been offering Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) related badges and is helping girls imagine a future in STEM. Women in the United States have made great strides in education and entry into the work force, however women continue to be underrepresented in STEM. According to a Girl Scout Research Institute study, 73% of girls are interested in STEM-related fields. However, only 24% of women work in such fields. Sheila Narayanan, Girl Scouts’ of the USA’s chief digital girl experience officer, explains that “by 2018, the United States will have 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs due to lack of qualified workers and, though most girls love hands-on science and solving problems, very few girls see a STEM job in their future.”
Girl Scout STEM program activities provide girls with unique opportunities to experience hands-on science and engineering projects in a nonthreatening environment. The girls are more comfortable in exploring their interest in our programs since they are not being graded on their results and an all-girl environment also helps with increasing their comfort level. The program focuses on addressing gender barriers that start during childhood in order to empower the next generation of females in STEM. “Highlighting how STEM fields can help people ‘change the world’ is critical” says Emily Fletcher, the director of programs for Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio. “This aligns with other research done on engaging girls in science/engineering. It also provides a direct connection to the mission of Girl Scouting and the three keys to Leadership—Discover, Connect, and Take Action.”
This year, the organization was back at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to talk about Digital Cookie 2.0, their newly enhanced online cookie selling platform, and the completely new Girls’ STEM Summit. At the conference, CES attendees could take pictures with STEM props including Girl Scout STEM badges, and enter a sweepstakes by sharing on social media their support for girls in STEM by using the hashtag #genSTEMgirls. By expanding its presence, Girl Scouts was able to showcase all the organization is doing to address girls’ involvement in STEM.
During CES, Girl Scouts hosted its first Girls’ STEM Summit, partly in collaboration with The Girl’s Lounge, a go-to destination for women at industry conferences. The Summit gave twenty-five Girl Scouts the chance to interact with industry leading professionals from the STEM community through a floor tour of CES. This gave the young girls an opportunity to learn from experts and explore what a career is like in STEM.
“A key initiative for The Girls’ Lounge is to connect today’s and tomorrow’s leaders” said Shelley Zalis, Founder and CEO of The Girls’ Lounge. “Our collaboration with the Girl Scouts at CES will bring together some of the brightest minds in STEM. The importance of STEM for today’s girls and future leaders is paramount to their success later in life, and we’re proud to play a part in showing girls that anything is possible.”