The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

[STAFF EDITORIAL] Girls in STEM deserve our support

Eliza Farley
NO GIRLS INVOLVED. The relative lack of female-identifying students in STEM extracurriculars can make them feel like boys’ clubs. It’s not that girls aren’t interested in these activities; instead, they might not be included to the same degree when they want to participate, or they might be afraid to be the only one.

100% agree

High school girls in STEM face a strange paradox. According to the Student Research Foundation, 28% of young women in their senior year of high school aspire to a career in science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines (STEM), compared to 65% of young men. Yet Forbes has reported that once young women graduate from college, they make up almost half of STEM majors.

Gender gaps in math and science seem to be much starker in high schools than in higher education, and our high school is no exception.

Our community must act to bridge this gender gap. From the speaking imbalance in science classes to the lack of female representation in groups like the Student Technology Committee, the gender disparity in STEM activities at SPA is a visible and real issue. But by building off the frameworks we already have in place, it’s entirely possible to empower our female scientists, mathematicians, and engineers.

STEM education and the responsibility for inclusivity starts in classrooms. For example, some ninth-grade physics classrooms use a speaking tracker, which monitors and tracks group discussions in classrooms, allowing teachers to quantify the contributions of different genders. Physics teacher Scot Hovan uses an iPad app called “Equity Maps” to gather data from group discussions and has noticed that male-identifying students tended to dominate the conversations in some of his classes. To address this issue, he shared the Equity Maps statistics with the class and discussed the importance of access to the conversation. After these conversations, results showed that classes made considerable strides in their discussions in terms of equity.

While teachers can encourage and educate, students need to take action: invite each other to participate in teams, make space for female-identifying leadership and voice.

Beyond the classroom, gender disparity also has permeated the school’s STEM leadership positions. STC is a group of dedicated and knowledgeable students committed to enhancing our community’s use of technology, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that the STC lacks a female member. This imbalance should raise a concern. An all-male STC may struggle to address the unique technological needs and concerns of the entire student body. Embracing gender diversity — perhaps by explicitly encouraging female-identifying students to run for the committee — could lead to innovative and inclusive solutions, thus ensuring that STC even more effectively serves the community.

The gender imbalance in STEM spaces at SPA is a microcosm of a broader global issue, further highlighting why we must rise beyond mere awareness of gender disparities in STEM to become a catalyst for change. It’s possible to hold workshops and seminars promoting girls in STEM, but scientific problems require scientific solutions, such as the use of a speaking tracker providing measurable and actionable data. Our community should look to other creative solutions to tackle the gender disparity in STEM.

Meanwhile, as students, it’s important to progress towards gender equity in STEM by extending invitations to our friends, classmates, and community members to participate in extracurriculars, join classes, and pursue interests. Additionally, important individual acts like promoting gender-neutral language in the classroom and supporting our peers in academic spaces create a more inclusive environment. Let’s celebrate students taking action, like the ones creating affinity spaces such as the Lovelace Society: a club for non-binary and female-identifying students that explores the intersection of technology, creativity, and the arts.

Let’s not just talk about girls in STEM. Let’s all do something.

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About the Contributor
Eliza Farley
Eliza Farley, Opinions Editor, Iris EIC
My name is Eliza Farley (she/her). I work as the Opinions Editor for The Rubicon and as the Editor-in-Chief of Iris: Art + Lit. At school, I play tennis and softball, and I also play the oboe in the school orchestra. I love to shop for cute stationery and make paper airplanes. I can be reached at [email protected].

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