Best Practices

In 1993, SEMAA (Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy) was born of then U.S. Congressman Louis Stokes’ (D) from Ohio concern about the low level of academic achievement of the young students in his District and his urging for the creation of a unique program that would focus on mathematics and science. Educational personnel at NASA Glenn and Tri-C embraced his idea and developed the SEMAA program.

Nineteen years later SEMAA is still inspiring students across the United States to develop a love for science and mathematics and becoming aware of what NASA as an agency is doing to promote an interest in STEM careers and raise the interest amongst young Americans in pursing a career in a STEM field. 11.5 percent of all engineers in the U.S. are women, according to the National Science Foundation, and business leaders say it is critical that more young women consider a career in engineering to help bridge the gap. As a former SEMAA site director, I too saw the need for our young ladies to become as excited about what they were learning in their SEMAA classes as the young men.

The work to bring more women into STEM careers is still in its infancy. As STEM becomes a national buzz word the race is on to improve STEM curriculum design, create and open STEM focused schools, and inspire corporate America to create funded programs that bring girls and women into the STEM pipeline. Towards that end here are ten STEM best practices for engaging girls:

    1. Give girls the same opportunities to become a part of science, engineering, mathematics, and technology projects.

    2. Encourage girls to explore non-traditional classes and after-school programming activities as they move through their middle and high school years.

    3. Be open, honest, and sincere when talking to girls about careers in STEM.

    4. Explain expectations and the importance of having an interest and good grades in math and science classes.

    5. Don’t give girls the easy or non-dirty jobs on projects, activities, and competitions.

    6. They can’t be what they can’t see! Provide speakers, mentors, and volunteers that look like them and work in STEM career fields and share some commonalities.

    7. Engage girls in STEM competitions and programs that begin in elementary school and continue through college.

    8. If you are a STEM professional, become part of a girls STEM mentoring or volunteer network.

    9. Work with parents to help them encourage their daughter(s) interest in science and math.

    10. Read and stay current by keeping yourself up-to-the-minute on the evolving STEM education landscape.