News & Notes Girls STEM

How Clubs Are Igniting Interest in STEM Among Girls
Posted 03/08/2018 by Elizabeth Folkes in Our Experts

“I learned that computers only do what you tell them to do. I thought computers were smart, but it is the people that are smart.” — Alsyiana G., Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne, Indiana

I love that quote. So often, modern technology seems like it has all the answers. But for every question asked of a search engine, every task completed by a smart home device, every calculator computation seemingly pulling numbers from thin air — the answer originates from one smart human being and the many others who put technology into action. At Boys & Girls Clubs of America, we’re proud to partner with Microsoft to inspire young people across the nation, especially young women like Alsyiana, to realize their potential as big thinkers, coders, explorers, engineers and problem-solvers. They’re the faces of STEM's future and we need them.

The next generation of STEM professionals will be the innovators who find cures, solve problems, invent products and generate ideas that transform life as we know it. It’s a booming sector with no end in sight. In fact, between 2014 and 2024, STEM jobs such as computing, engineering and advanced manufacturing are projected to grow by 17 percent, compared to a 12 percent growth rate for non-STEM jobs. Yet our workforce is not rising correspondingly. Too few elementary, middle and high school students are interested in or adequately prepared to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, a fact that is especially true for youth of color and girls. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce.

How do we get girls excited about STEM? In its simplest form, the answer is like a science experiment itself: we give them access and watch what happens. What happens when you empower underserved youth to tinker with block-based codes, design and develop original apps, and simulate computational reasoning with the support of passionate mentors and professionals? What happens when you meet kids in their world: building skills, earning digital badges and publishing their digital creations? I can tell you because I’ve seen it myself — their eyes light up and so do their imaginations. Once young women realize they can create, explore and experiment on their own terms, they can begin to see the possibility of a STEM career. In fact, thanks to Club programming, 50 percent of female Club members in the 2016 graduating class expressed an interest in STEM careers, compared to just 16 percent of their peers nationally. Now those are results a scientist - or just about anyone - likes to see!

At BGCA and Microsoft, we understand that STEM education is critical to the future success of America and our young people. That's why we’ve teamed up to prepare the next generation of science, technology, engineering and math leaders by helping more young people — and especially girls, minority youth and those from low-income communities — to learn skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving and coding through computer science education. We’re bringing this programming to kids who might not have access to it otherwise — ensuring whole new generations are introduced to the possibilities that STEM holds for a fulfilling future.

Through our Great Futures 2025 strategic plan, BGCA is dedicated to a sole purpose: to inspire and empower Club youth to achieve success and champion opportunities for all young people . We have eight years to get there and are proud to work alongside partners like Microsoft. Together, we are creating opportunities for America’s youth to achieve great futures.

But today, on International Women’s Day, we pause to celebrate the accomplishments we see right now. Girls logging onto computers, delving into problems and bringing ideas to life as they learn they can be creators in the click of a button. So let’s celebrate all the girls who enter their local Boys & Girls Club and run straight for the tech center. I can’t wait to see what their futures hold, and how their ideas, inventions and achievements will one day shape our world.

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