Being Smart Rules

Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) are booming and on the rise, with an estimated increase of 20.5 million jobs between 2010 and 2020. While we hear a lot of news about the poor state of our economy  and the job market, STEM fields offer that glimmer of hope for a brighter future and better economy. With science and math opening many doors, it would be easy to assume that many intelligent chicas are jumping on the bandwagon, right? Wrong.

Despite the rapid growth, according to the United States Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration, women “hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs.” What a boys club! What causes women to have such a low percentage? According to the same study, there are several factors taking place, such as “a lack of female role models, gender stereotyping, and less family-friendly flexibility in the STEM fields.” When it came to confidence, the American Sociological Association found men were more confident than women in the field of engineering.

Minority women consist of “less than one in 10 employed scientists and engineers.”  Girl Scout Research Institute found: “Hispanic girls say they have just as much interest in STEM as Cauca­sian girls, but they have had less exposure to STEM, less adult support for pursuing STEM fields, lower academic achievement, and greater awareness of gender barriers in STEM professions.” This means that chicas in STEM need a strong support group. It is time to quit reading how bad the situation is for Hispanic women in STEM and start doing something about it. We can open many doors by using these three simple words: si se puede/ Yes, you can.

With a si se puede attitude,  Jo Marie Duran found her inspiration to explore STEM by being involved  with the Health Professionals of America (HPA) at her school. “Being interested in the medical area was very easy because I always loved to help people and what better way to help by being a health professional. Knowing that you have the ability to learn how to save someone’s life is exciting and scary…They  [scientists] require courage and a sense of confidence in what they do… I never thought I had the chance to gain that medical mentality without being in my health profession program.”

Here are a few resources to start your STEM adventure. Check them out:

STEM Connector and Popular STEM Opportunities.
STEM Connector is the ultimate search engine for students, teachers, and parents interested in STEM opportunities. Programs like the Health Professionals of America and Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) are two out of numerous opportunities nationwide that give a chica that extra boost to succeed and be more involved in a STEM related area. Programs like NASA and FIRST are paving the way for STEM in teens. NASA has numerous opportunities for future engineers and scientists. On the other hand, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Technology) is revolutionizing the field of robotics. Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST, states FIRST creates a “culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.” Fortunately, FIRST is a nationwide after school program, which means there numerous hosts, teams, and events throughout the country. Check the local listings for any team or event.

Girl oriented programs are on the rise.
Nerds are cool. There’s even a female nerd movement, created by Nerd Girls, where it is chic to be a geek.  Girl Scouts do more than sell delicious cookies, they are heavily involved with STEM.  To top it off, NASA’s Women in STEM High School Scholars (WISH) is a girl-only program dedicated to work on a NASA mission alongside other participants, NASA engineers, and NASA scientists, via a virtual and onsite program. Want to learn more? Thankfully, the American Association of University Women provides a list of resources for women and girls interested in being involved with girl-oriented organizations. Chicas unite!

Check out local library and school clubs.
Going out of town to take advantage of STEM opportunities may not always be easy. Local libraries, schools, and non-profit organizations offer workshops and camps year round. Some schools offer magnet programs, like HPA/HOSA.  Leave the “I can’t find it” attitude behind, the opportunities are out there.

Don’t limit yourself to just one area.
The beauty of STEM is that it is HUGE. Broaden the horizon and avoid falling into one area. The stereotype of STEM jobs solely being scientists, mathematicians, and lonely nerds is long gone. STEM is booming and it is time for girls everywhere, not just Hispanic women, to increase the percentage of women in STEM. Yes, we can!

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