There are some crazy statistics out there with regard to women in math and science fields. Do you know that if you scan a room of 25 engineers, only three will be women? The Department of Commerce says that women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, but they hold less than 25 percent of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) jobs. The numbers are staggering across the board. Women are much less likely than men to graduate with a STEM undergraduate degree, and if they are one of the few that do end up with a STEM degree, they are not likely to work in a STEM job.
So what do we do with this information? What should you do if you're the father of a STEM-loving girl and you want to provide the best for her? Let me introduce you to my friend, Bill Childs. He decided to take his frustration out in the most productive way possible... with music. He gathered the best and brightest kindie (kids+indie= a match made in heaven) musicians and asked them to contribute a STEM-related track for a CD to encourage girls to follow their scientific passions. The CD is the aptly-titled Science Fair. Amazingly talented artists like Mates of State, Laura Veirs and Frances England added songs with major star power. The best part? All of the proceeds go straight to the science education department at Girls, Inc.
For Bill Childs, producing this CD was a project of love and added meaning. Science Fair was inspired by the lives of his parents, Ves and Holly Childs (both accomplished leaders in STEM and feminism). Listen to what his mom has to say:
I would really like to know for sure that my children and grandchildren will be treated fairly at school and on the job, regardless of their gender. I would particularly like to be sure that any of my beautiful little granddaughters who wanted to be a scientist or engineer like me would have a full opportunity to do so, and to be published when deserved and to be paid equitably. Perhaps this record will contribute toward that end.
Have you heard of Brittany Wenger? She's a 17-year-old girl who just took home the top prize at Google's Science Fair. Yes, that Google. Her project is no child's play. She built an artificial brain that will help detect signs of cancer using a minimally invasive procedure. That is amazing and hopeful on so many levels.
Then there are the brains behind Maykah Inc. Alice Brooks, Bettina Chen and Jennifer Kessler are trying to convince girls that STEM is cool with a product that is so much more than a toy. They were able to raise over $60,000 in orders on Kickstarter after just two weeks! They ended up raising a total of over $85,000, which is an astounding number for these entrepreneurial spirits.
It's up to us to change the environment of girls and women interested in math and science. Remember the stink that the "I hate Math" Barbie ignited in the nineties? Then there was the JC Penney t-shirt (I'm linking to my brilliant friend, Liz Gumbinner, who discusses this issue with the passion it deserves). Science continues to be marketed to young girls in all the wrong ways. We have got to do better, folks. The good news? We're on the right track.
Holly Childs, we've got your back.