The gender imbalance in STEM fields is extreme. According to a 2010 AAUW report, boys and girls take math and science courses in roughly equal numbers in elementary, middle, and high school, however far fewer women than men pursue these fields in college. According to the National Science Foundation, 29% of all male freshmen planned to major in a STEM field in 2006 compared to 15% of all female freshmen.
Honestly, I wouldn’t lay this all at the feet of a STEM monoculture. Software development, as a part of that landscape, just isn’t that appealing to a lot of people. The tools to build an app (web or mobile) are freely available. The barriers to learning are very low, and the barriers to success are no higher than for males.
One way is to interest them with toys that fit their frames of reference, while bringing in some element of technology for a soft landing. The Goldie Blox book and toy series is an example where a character is portrayed as a “princess turned engineer.” The toys teach spatial skills and engineering principles.
I looked at some of these toys and I’m not convinced that going the route of making colorful and cute toys with STEM elements is the way to go. Code is black and white, terse, and cold. Trying to dress up a subject may hold a girl’s interest slightly longer, but you can only hide it so long before the truth comes out. Better to expose them to the real deal and let them honestly decide if they are interested in the subject.
Tomorrow I’ll post what we’re getting our future SAHMs.