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Initiatives Announced to Help Young Women Overcome Roadblocks in STEM Education

March 17, 2016

Several recent studies have identified the roadblocks that females face in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. These two roadblocks include gender bias in the classroom and too few mentors in K-16 STEM fields. In an attempt to increase opportunities for females in STEM education, both federal and foundation funders have announced programs that will increase scholarship and internship opportunities for young women in STEM fields.

Males are more likely than females to be named by peers as being knowledgeable about the course content, according to a recent study from the University of Wisconsin – Males Under-Estimate Academic Performance of Their Female Peers in Undergraduate Biology Classrooms. The authors contend that this gender bias influences female students’ self-confidence and thus persistence in this STEM discipline. In another study, Rachel Robnett found that women who encountered gender bias in STEM education had lower self-confidence than participants who did not. In both studies, the authors contend that positive peer connections may be a valuable resource for girls and women in the STEM pipeline.

In addition to the roadblocks of gender bias and lack of opportunity, mentorship is another common issue that holds back females in STEM fields. At a recent conference hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), researchers and other experts highlighted the importance of role models and mentors for females in STEM disciplines. The conference included a discussion by Becky Wai-Ling Packard, professor of Psychology and Education at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Packard recently released Successful STEM Mentoring Initiatives for Underrepresented Students – an evidence-based guide for faculty and administrators to develop new initiatives to broaden access and improve persistence and graduation of their students. She contends that mentors must provide candid feedback to students for mentoring to be effective. 

To address both of these issues, federal agencies and foundations are looking toward increasing opportunities for young women in STEM education through scholarships and internship opportunities. These programs are intended to increase the number of women in STEM to help increase the number of women selecting majors in STEM fields and increasing their likelihood of achieving a graduate degree in a STEM field.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) announced that it will commit up to $400,000 to support research and extension projects that increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities from rural areas in STEM disciplines. Applications are due April 7, 2016, for its Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields Program (WAMS). More information is available at: http://nifa.usda.gov/funding-opportunity/women-and-minorities-science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics-fields.

In Partnership with the National Academy of Sciences’ Science & Entertainment Exchange, Marvel Studio will host a competition that will get girls involved in STEM disciplines. The Girls Reforming the Future Challenge asks high school aged girls (15-18 years of age) to submit a video detailing an original and innovative STEM project. Marvel Studio will select five finalists whose project has the greatest potential to benefit humankind. Each finalists will receive:

  • A $500 High Yield Savings account from Synchrony Bank;
  • The opportunity to present their project to leaders in science and industry at Marvel Studios;
  • A tour of the Walt Disney Studios and Dolby Laboratories facilities;
  • A chance to walk the red carpet at the World Premiere of Captain America: Civil War on April 12, 2016; and,
  • The ability to share their project during a live global Broadcom Masters webinar.

The grand prize winner will receive an internship with Marvel Studios. Submissions are due Mar 26, 2016. Read more...



stem, inclusion