Anne Marie Frandsen has been coding since she was in first grade. Seven years later, and she’s noticed something odd about her STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) classes.
She’s often the only girl in the room.
“I do robotics stuff, and I saw when I did it that sometimes I was the only girl or one of three girls in the program. So, I wanted to start a program for younger girls to help them get more interested and active in science, so that way when they’re my age, they can do it and be really confident about it,” Frandsen said.
She’s on to something. Many young girls don’t feel confident enough to pursue STEM careers.
“Research shows that girls in high school are actually getting better grades in all subjects than boys are, and that includes math and science,” said Karen Ludwig, a counselor at Idaho State University’s Center for New Directions.
“But when research is done to talk to students about the way they feel about their capabilities, girls tend to report lower scores about their self efficacy and their belief in their abilities in math and science.”
That’s why programs like “Girls Who Code” exist. Girls Who Code is a national program aimed to “close the gender gap in technology and to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does,” according to its website.
Frandsen is leading and instructing one of these courses at ISU’s Museum of Natural History.
Computer related jobs are the fastest growing job in the STEM field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But only one in five computer science graduates are women, according to Girls Who Code, effectively leaving women out of the future of the workforce.
“Women make up 50 percent of the population and only about 25 percent of workers in STEM careers. By leaving out that sizable chunk of the population, we’re not getting the diversity that we need in creativity and problem solving,” Ludwig said.
The biggest drop off period for girls is between the ages of 13-17, despite their success in the classroom.
“Even though there’s been research to show that girls who are scoring in the highest of the really high performing math careers, still have a much higher tendency to choose careers in social sciences or humanities because that’s where their comfort level is,” Ludwig said.
There’s progress being made: More schools are requiring everyone to graduate with math and science credits, more girls are exposed to these career paths.
However, young girls still need role models who look like them, such as Frandsen.
“I hope that they’ll be interested in STEM and confident in science, too, and I think it’ll be a great learning experience for me as well,” Frandsen said.
Get involved in Frandsen’s club:
Frandsen’s Girls Who Code club is for girls grades 3-5 who are interested in science and technology.
“We will be using the NASA Girl’s Who Code curriculum as well as inviting women from the university and community who are pursuing careers in science and technology as guests. Girls who participate also be learning how to code while using engaging programs.”
You can sign up for the course by clicking here.
More opportunities to learn about STEM:
“The Idaho State University Center for New Directions will present the Super STEM Girl Conference on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, in the Pond Student Union Building. This conference will be a unique opportunity for local 8th grade girls to spend a day on the Idaho State University campus learning about their interests and strengths. The day will be packed with hands-on workshops where girls will have fun experiencing a variety of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) activities.”
More information about this conference can be found here.