WE NEED MORE GIRLS IN SCIENCE: INTERNATIONAL DAY OF WOMEN AND GIRLS IN SCIENCE
By 2021 Diana Award recipient, Neha Shukla from Pennsylvania, USA
Three years ago, Neha set up ‘Innovation Corner’, designed to spark students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through virtual and in-person innovation sessions. Neha has since reached 22,800 students around the world but her dream is to run sessions with over 100,000 children. As a result of Neha’s efforts, students globally are starting to create solutions to real-world problems.
21 February 2022
Today is International Day of Women and Girls in Science! Every February 11th, the world comes together to celebrate female scientists and encourage more girls to join science, technology, engineering, and math (or STEM) fields.
Did you know that women make up only 28% of the workforce in science and engineering jobs? Women are highly under-represented in science at all stages of the pipeline, from the K-12 classrooms to university majors to careers in STEM fields.
The gender gap in STEM is a global problem where a lack of role models, mentorship, and resources is causing an under-representation of women and girls in STEM fields. But why does this matter? When car-accident airbags were invented in the early 1950s, engineers used the “average male” sized crash dummy to test and build the airbags. And because of this, thousands of women and children got injured due to the lack of women inventors designing the product to fit their needs. This is just one example of the effects of the gender gap, and proves that diversity brings more creativity and innovation to the table.
Neha Shukla is a Teen Scientist & Inventor, Author, and Innovation Advocate for Girls and Youth. She founded “Innovation for Everyone”, an organization running global STEM workshops for youth K-12 which, to date, has reached over 54,000 students.
The problem boils down to helping girls get started with STEM at an early age and continuing the support throughout their education and careers.
Current efforts to increase diversity in STEM are a great first step, but we could go so much further in creating an impact on today’s girls and women. I believe that starting young and bridging the gender gap in girls is the key to solving this problem. Here are my top three tips on how we can help girls join and stay in STEM fields:
- Reframing the Way We Teach STEM: We need to reframe the way we teach science and technology to focus more on the human aspect and the real-world impact. Girls have so much empathy and care deeply about social change. So instead of explaining that STEM is a tool to write “Hello World”, show girls how science and technology can be used as a tool to create a positive impact on their communities. If we connect skills in STEM with real-world impact, we can bring in a new generation of girl scientists, innovators, and problem-solvers.
- Creating Role Models and Representation: We need role models to show young girls that they can be a scientist, they can code, and they can create solutions to real-world problems in their communities. By increasing media representation of women in STEM, we can create an environment of diverse role models for girls where scientists and engineers look like them. And when girls have female role models in STEM, it has been shown to increase their confidence and aspirations to join STEM fields.
- Mentorships and Corporate Support: We need companies to acknowledge the gender gap in STEM and actively work towards reducing it through mentorships, internships, and sponsorships. Companies, schools, and institutions have the ability to create strong and supportive networks for girls to grow their skills and meet powerful female leaders. And it has been shown that mentorships and support can help girls with their career paths and increase self-confidence, according to a Harvard study.
Neha was featured in the New York Times for her impact in bringing more girls into the fields of science, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
I’m Neha Shukla, the founder of Innovation for Everyone, an organization where I run global Innovation & STEM workshops for students K-12 and have reached over 54,000 students to-date. I’m so grateful to be a 2021 Diana Award winner and receive support and guidance in growing my outreach.
In my workshops, I share my simple 3-step innovation framework that anyone can use to solve real-world problems and create a positive impact on their community. It has been so heart-warming to see my innovation workshops and global outreach bringing more girls into the picture for STEM.
Girls as young as first and second-graders are coming up with solutions to problems like ocean pollution and bullying within my 45-minute workshops, so imagine the power of these girls if they continue working on their solutions for months or even years.
To all the girls out there, I encourage you to get started with STEM today – find real-world problems in your community and begin learning about technologies and tools you can use to solve them.
And to the adults, companies, and schools, I challenge you to take a small step towards bridging the gender gap in STEM by just saying “yes” when a girl asks for mentorship, support, or guidance.
Girls have the power, creativity, and imagination to change the world with their skills in STEM. So let’s come together and build the next generation of girl scientists, innovators, and problem-solvers!
Neha received the Diana Award in 2021, the most prestigious accolade a young person aged 9-25 years can receive for their social action or humanitarian work.