Although many parents and educators are now highlighting the importance of STEM subjects — that’s science, technology, engineering, and math — as an indicator for professional success later in life, there’s a big problem: women have long since been discouraged from participating in these fields. It’s a disparity that still exists today. Not only are women vastly underrepresented in STEM careers, but they’re also being paid significantly less than men in comparable positions. Fortunately, steps are being taken to change that, starting from early on. For example, the non-profit organization MakerGirl aims to teach young girls a wide variety of STEM skills and pique their interest in sectors that have conventionally been considered to be boys’ clubs.
While three-fourths of all young children participate in preschool programs, gender inequality in education typically reveals itself a bit later. According to European data, young girls start to become interested in STEM subjects around age 11 but lose interest in those subjects around the age of 15. That means that period — and perhaps even the years that precede it — is critical for the confidence and success of young women all over the world.
Organizations like MakerGirl are hoping to make a difference. Founded in 2014, MakerGirl offers educational sessions in science, technology, engineering, and math to girls ages seven to 10. Initially, MakerGirl held 3D printing courses at the University of Illinois. But since that time, the founders have traveled to 17 states to host more than 61 sessions for over 1,000 young participants. Since 3D printers are to make everything from construction concrete to medical equipment, the possibilities that come with understanding this technology are endless. And that’s exactly how the founders want the participants to view their futures: as limitless.
Now, MakerGirl is holding classes at Northwestern University and has partnered with DePaul University. They want to bring their courses to universities in Milwaukee and even further. Their goal is to educate 10,000 girls within the next five years; they hope 5,000 of those young girls will come from underserved and rural populations. So far, they’ve taught 2,500 girls STEM skills, including robotics and coding.
What started off as a Kickstarter campaign has blossomed into a force to be reckoned with — and the founders couldn’t be happier.
Co-founder Julia Haried said in a statement, “MakerGirl brings me the greatest joy when I see young girls get excited about science, technology, engineering and math, and literally shift who they perceive themselves to be in the world.”
Co-founder Elizabeth Engle added, “If you have the ability to create change in the world and have the confidence to carry it out… it means transformed lives for girls.”
With any luck, MakerGirl (and other organizations like it) will continue to expand and spread both STEM knowledge and awareness. Girls do run the world, after all.