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 Mar. 20, 2017

Why STEM Programs Designed Specifically for Girls are Important

By Laura


By middle school many girls drop out of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-related programs.  In grade school both boys and girls show the same degree of aptitude and desire to learn and participate in these courses, but for some reason girls are underrepresented in high school and college courses, (Gilley and Bergolly 2005, Dave et al 2010, Puck and Stary 2012). 


Women are still underrepresented in STEM careers (engineers, math mathematicians, computer programmers, “hard sciences” such as physics, etc.).  Often, psychological barriers, gender expectations, and the “coolness” factor can act as barriers to girls in the pursuit of STEM educational and career opportunities.  In addition, girls tend to want to be the problem solvers for their family and community, (Connole 2015; Verlanic 2015).  Adopting a slogan such as STEM-related programs are for those who love to solve problems and improve quality of life, may be appealing to girls.  Isn’t that what scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and math professionals do? 


woman STEMwomen in STEMwomen in STEM 2


Female role models are especially important for girls, (Gilley and Bergolly 2005; Burkett et al 2007; Dave et al 2010). Providing role models and breaking down stereotypes helps girls’ self-esteem and sense of self-efficacy (Connole 2015; Burkett et al 2007).  They can see themselves in similar roles, fields, professions.


STEM programs that are designed especially for girls, their interests, way of seeing their world, and learning may reintroduce them to or reenergize their interest in STEM subjects and may even propel them into STEM-related classes in high school and college.  Girls-n-Science, formerly Chicks in Science, strives to do just that.  The event, geared toward 4-8 grade girls, was created to give girls the opportunity to learn more about STEM-related subjects.  Girls-n-Science committee members are made up of MSU Billings staff, faculty, and students, Rocky Mountain College faculty, K-12 educators, and nonprofit/businesses professionals in STEM-related fields.  These as well as many other professionals will engage girls in various STEM-related hands-on activities on Saturday, April 1 from 12:30 to 4 pm. 


To register and learn more about STEM Stars for 7th and 8th Grade Girls, call 406-896-5882 or visit  


Burkett, S., Small, C., Rossetti, C., Hill, B., Gattis, C.  (2007).  AC 2008-1834: a Day Camp for Middle School Girls to Create a STEM Pipeline.  American Society for Engineering Education

Connole, R.  STEMinism Leading the Way for Women and Girls in STEM.  Montana STEM Mentor Summit.  Museum of the Rockies Hager Auditorium, November 6, 2015.  Conference Presenter.

Dave, V., Blasko, D., Holliday-Darr, K., Kremer, J., Edwards, R., Ford, M., & ... Hido, B. (2010). Re-enJEANeering STEM Education: Math Options Summer Camp. Journal Of Technology Studies, 36(1), 35-45.

Gilley, J. and Begolly, J.  (2005).  Great Progress, Great Divide: The Need for Evolution of the Recruitment Model for Women in Engineering.  American Society for Engineering Education, Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition.  Session 3148

Puck, B.S. and Stary, W.R.  (2012).  The STEPS Difference: 16 Years of Attracting Girls to Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics.  ASQ Advancing the STEM Agenda in Education, the Workplace and Society, Session 2-3.  July 16-17, 2012. 

Verlanic, A.  STEMinism Leading the Way for Women and Girls in STEM.  Montana STEM Mentor Summit.  Museum of the Rockies Hager Auditorium, November 6, 2015.  Conference Presenter.