Refining the Art of Storytelling to Support Women in STEM
Stories are important. Before there was a written language there was storytelling. Telling stories about women in math and sciences have been a critical missing story for far too long. The story of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) helps illuminate the efforts, successes and failures in what is a vibrant community of dedicated women who play a vital role at companies big and small across the country every day. Yet for far too long our daughters and sons for that matter didn’t hear a peep about successful women in math and science. Isn’t that the reason everyone was so surprised by the movie Hidden Figures? What an amazing movie about truly inspirational women. Yet how flabbergasting that it remained hidden for so long? The time has come to stop hiding stories of female role models in STEM. The time has come to open the floodgates of information and begin storytelling or telling the stories about the successes of women in STEM so we can motivate the next generation with female role models. In fact, the times are changing. Big tech is creating their own reports on how to improve the number of women in technology careers, large engineering industries are creating new fancy commercials about girls in STEM and new nonfiction autobiographical books on STEM trailblazers are finally starting to reach the bedside tables of little girls and boys showing them the diverse faces of female STEM professionals. The question we ask you school leader, teacher and parent is have the stories of women role models in STEM reached your students?
Research around STEM, from interest of boys and girls in middle school to employment data reveals the need for women, in particular women of color, to see and know STEM role models. Just ask yourself, how many famous women can you name in STEM? Can you even name any that are alive? Most kids know how to name Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs, but how many famous women in STEM can they name? Do their teachers have lessons about female STEM trailblazers like Katherine Johnson, the mathematician who made our space missions successful or Dr. Maria Telkes who designed the first solar powered house in the US. It is time that kids learn about a new type of #STEM Superhero. Women in STEM!
Stats to know in STEM
- Women make up more than half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce (56 percent), but only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce.
- Women only make up 30 percent of all professional computing jobs and less than 5 percent are women of color.
- Many of the women portrayed in STEM jobs in Hollywood are limited to the medical profession.
- Less than 50 percent of females on TV are portrayed in their work environment.
- The report “Portray Her: Representations of Women STEM Characters in Media” highlights that 62.9 percent of STEM professionals portrayed in media are men, outnumbering women STEM characters nearly two-to-one.
As educators and authors of nonfiction STEM books, and parents of daughters, including three Latina daughters, we are impassioned to help increase the participation of girls and women in STEM from primary school to the STEM workforce.
How can we help with the participation in STEM?
Help kids discover the awesome STEM Superheroes from the trailblazers in STEM to the up and becoming leaders in STEM. We need to write about, draw and share the stories of STEM Superheroes, from some of the pioneers like first ever computer scientists Ada Lovelace to Eunice Foote, the first scientist to discover the warming properties of carbon dioxide. As educators, it is our job to ensure STEM stories with female protagonists are brought into the classroom. IN fact, we argue they should the lion’s share of stories you tell, to balance out decades of hidden figures.
It is time to share the female diverse faces of STEM widely! Below are a list of community partners and programs that are helping to bring stories of female STEM Superheroes to life.
Women@Energy: Learn about the women in the energy field by exploring their degree, STEM field or even location! All the women featured share their #STEM Story.
Women@NASA: This website includes a stunning collection of 64 videos and essays from women across the agency who contribute to NASA’s mission in many different ways.
Women in Ag: Farmers are STEM professionals! Explore the farmers feeding our nation and fueling our cars.
Legacies of American Women: Some of our STEM professionals have imagined, created or worked in our national parks. Explore these stories from the National Park Service.
National Science Foundation: Funds research endeavors to help increase participation in STEM from online tools like CareerWISE to systematic approaches for recruitment and retention strategies to be used in STEM.
About the Authors
Erin Twamley and Joshua Sneideman are educators and co-authors of nonfiction children’s books on the topics of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Their newest STEM book release Everyday Superheroes: Women in STEM Careers shares stories of 26 diverse women in STEM. Erin provides author and S.T.E.M. encounters for schools to encourage the next generation of STEM professionals. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org