Mind the STEM Gap at School
9 points for developing a fair, inclusive approach to education
The Manifesto for Girls [and Boys] sets out a series of general principles, which we have translated into concrete versions for schools and for families. The version here is intended for teachers, educators and everyone who contributes in any way to the education of girls and boys.
It proposes 9 key points through which we can combat the stereotypes and practices that still hinder a fair approach offering girls and boys equal opportunities for access to scientific disciplines.
Educators can do a great deal in the classroom, by choosing inclusive words that make the female presence visible (in many languages, such as Italian, the masculine form is not neutral). They can underline the discrimination and stereotypes hidden in proverbs and traditional expressions, which may also appear in textbooks: “Daddy works and reads”, “Mummy cooks and irons”.
They are transmitted from generation to generation and work at an unconscious level. This is why schoolchildren should be helped to recognise, discuss and discard them.
Building the ability to analyse the logical and empirical fundamentals of a statement combats the activation of stereotypes, one of which holds that boys are more able than girls in the study of maths and technology.
Assigning roles on a rotating basis helps everyone build up self-confidence and belief in the group: leadership is based on competence, not gender.
Logical and maths tests (through apps or digital games) help girls develop their self-esteem, their confidence about their abilities. It also re-establishes a balance, given that from a very young age boys are perceived as having greater competence than girls in maths and sciences.
Agronomist, chemist, immunologist, neuroscientist, geologist, marine biologist, aerospace engineer, computer programmer, naval architect: the scientific world offers many exciting professions, including some of the most in demand on the jobs market. By offering a broad range of careers and training paths, STEM helps girls imagine their professional future freely, without the constraints of conventions and stereotypes.
A good approach is to promote involvement in the laboratories and experimental work of experts in the various STEM fields, and to give visibility to the lives and contributions of female scientists and researchers by rediscovering women innovators from the past who too often have been forgotten by the textbooks and learning about contemporary female professionals who are sometimes overlooked by the media.
And that give them value by focusing on the success of the group: competition but also discussion and cooperation.
Overcoming stereotypes and planning a more inclusive educational approach that introduces girls to science is a difficult task, on which discussions among the members of collegiate bodies is useful.