A popular adage holds that it takes a village to raise a child. What, then, can a village do to interest children -- particularly girls, who are so underrepresented in STEM fields -- in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math?
I can attest that it was my own "village" -- my teachers, mentors and family members -- that led me along my path in STEM. While I was fortunate to have that support, many young people do not.
Every single child enters the world driven by curiosity; it is the force that drives an infant to grasp for a toy or a toddler to taste anything within reach. Curiosity is the same fundamental driving force inherent in the pursuit of science. That makes part of our mission easy: a natural interest in STEM is already programmed into the minds of children.
We, as adults, must now nurture that interest. Teachers are already heavily engaged in that goal, but STEM involvement doesn't end in the classroom, so the other members of the village must do their part as well.
If you are a parent, talk about science. If there is something you or your child does not know, look it up. Satisfy their natural curiosity! It's easy to search the Internet and find answers with the click of a mouse or swipe of a finger. Discuss the changing seasons and visit LiveScience.com to learn more. Want to know how batteries work? Go to ScienceNewsForKids.org to find out. You could even watch Shark Week programming and check Discovery.com for more amazing facts and fun.
Even if you're not a parent, you can help. Encourage your employer to engage with the local schools, colleges and universities and participate in STEM-related activities. There's a side benefit to that kind of partnership: all companies need to recruit talented young people to continue to grow their businesses, and becoming involved places you right in the pipeline.
If you work at a STEM-related company, why not volunteer to be a judge at a science competition or Lego League event, host students seeking career information, or serve as a mentor? Encourage your co-workers and supervisors to get involved as well.
Be an informed voter, and elect officials who make STEM education a local and national priority.
Participate in NYU-Poly's global conversation through social media, using the hashtag #STEMNOW. Tell us your thoughts about the state of STEM education and the measures we should be taking as a nation to improve both.
The entire village will benefit by getting more girls and other underrepresented groups involved in STEM. Innovation of any type is dependent on having a diversity of perspectives and approaches, and the greater the diversity, the better the chance for innovation.
Everyone can reach out to the young women in their lives and provide them with the encouragement they need. The lack of women in the upper levels of STEM fields has little to do with a lack of ability or talent; it has to do with a culture in the STEM workforce -- and in society as a whole -- that has discouraged them from fully participating. There are gender biases, some subtle and some not so subtle, and our village is absolutely no place for bias or discrimination.