Femininity and STEM training (Young Women’s College Prep Academy)

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Femininity and STEM training (Young Women’s College Prep Academy)

February 1, 2019 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
YWCA Houston

TrueChild’s Executive Director, Riki Wilchins, has agreed to provide a FREE training to HoustonISD campus leaders to share this progressive approach to encouraging more girls and young women to pursue STEM interests.

TrueChild has developed the FaST (Femininity and STEM) curriculum, created through support from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, and adapted from Program M with permission from Promundo/US, provides a mini-curriculum of proven, “gold standard” exercises from the international space that will help girl-serving programs to highlight, challenge and ultimately change rigid feminine norms that can depress STEM interest, participation and achievement.

Science, technology, engineering and math: for many students, especially young women, achievement in the “STEM” subjects will be the key to high growth rates, higher paying jobs and career advancement in the knowledge economy. Yet for years girls have under-performed at these subjects: dropping out early, expressing low interest, opting out of STEM degrees in college and out of STEM careers as college grads. There’s even a name for this: the “leaky pipeline.”

It’s not that girls can’t achieve. In fact, girls not only score as well as boys in elementary school, but in societies abroad where math and science achievement is valued equally in both sexes, they continue to do well throughout their educational careers.  Nor is it just the result of patriarchal school systems. Millions have been invested in improving a host of external education variables of this nature that may be holding girls back: hostility in the computer room, lack of female role models, masculine pedagogical models, etc. In some cases, high schools have even refused to let girls drop STEM classes, which has only succeeded in delaying the problem until they matriculate.

What could be causing elementary school girls who excel at math and who love science, to suddenly lose all interest or develop low grades in these subjects in late adolescence and early teens?  One important and under-explored answer is feminine norms. As girls age, they internalize feminine ideals that force them to make a choice between excelling at STEM or being feminine. And in this scenario, STEM often loses.

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