STEM and STEAM fields have some of the fastest-growing industries in America, but also have some of the largest gender gaps. The field encompasses everything from developers creating the next new app to forensic scientists cracking major criminals. While many parents might be aware of the gender gap in places like Silicon Valley, STEM jobs spread far and wide across the job market. As they continue to grow, women are getting left behind. In fact, women only hold 26% of all STEM jobs.
Educators and industry leaders believe many young women are turning away from STEAM careers during their developmental years, and have completely opted out of the field by the time they reach high school.
Several organizations have stepped up to the challenge and formed clubs, camps, and programs to engage young girls in science, tech, and more. Check out these 25 groups who are doing amazing things in STEM and STEAM engagement.
Seattle Girls’ School STEAM Camp
The Seattle Girls School believes the gender gap in STEAM fields starts in childhood.
“From the toy store to the media, girls are constantly indoctrinated with messages that say science, technology, engineering, and math are for boys,” they write. “Girls become dissuaded early on, and, even if their interest remains, data shows they are still not choosing to pursue those areas of study.”
They’re working to change this with STEAM camps for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders where students try everything from steampunk pinwheels to Barbie drag races.
USI Girls Only (GO) STEM! Camp
The University of Southern Indiana works with high school students durings its five-day summer camp experience. USI students are also able to attend as mentors to the budding STEM professionals.
2017’s camp took place at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, and used the amusement park “as a laboratory for experiments and activities in chemistry and nutrition, technology, earth sciences, biology, and engineering/applied physics.” Registration for 2018 opens on February 5th.
Explore Engineering for High School Women
Sweet Briar College hosts Explore Engineering events throughout the year to teach young women from across the country how to use creativity to find solutions and build projects.
Rising junior Rose Murphy explained to local ABC affiliate WSET why she signed up: “I realized a couple years ago that I wanted to blow things up for a living, and I figured engineering was a good way to get there.”
This program is in its eighth year, and has seen more than 400 girls complete the program — with more applications coming in each quarter.
Girl Develop It
Girl Develop It is a non-profit program across 53 cities that works to create opportunities and non-judgemental environments for girls to learn developing skills. They originally started with one class in New York City, which sold out in less than 24 hours. Now, they have more than 55,000 members nationwide.
“By teaching women around the world from diverse backgrounds to learn software development, we can help women improve their careers and confidence in their everyday lives,” organizers write.
Spectacles at Wesleyan College
Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, hosts Spectacles Camp for middle school girls. The camp is in its 21st year and draws some of the best young scientific minds in the country.
This past year, the theme was built around a double-homicide mystery in one of the cabins, and students had to use forensic skills to collect blood samples, run tests, and use math to calculate how the murder occurred.
Adreanna Chester, an 8th grader at Macon’s St. Peter Claver school, eagerly signed up for Spectacles camp this summer. She was tasked with testing the blood samples found in the cabin, which inspired her to pursue a career in forensics. She is already researching colleges that specialize in the field.
Mt. Holyoke College iDesign Workshops
This summer’s theme for the Mt. Holyoke iDesign camp was wearable tech. “Technology is now incorporated into everything — from projections of butterflies on Grammy performance dresses to ‘smart’ purses that sense when your wallet is missing,” organizers write.
Middle school girls were able to learn how everyday items can come together to make something cool — and were able to make their own high-tech gear. This program runs for a few weeks during the summer, and students don’t need previous programming experience to attend.
Latinas in STEM
Latinas in STEM works to empower Latina women and support them as they pursue STEM careers. Creating an environment for Latina women to thrive is crucial, which is why K–12 Outreach is an important part of their organization. This includes after school programs, summer camps, and an annual conference.
“With a focus on underserved communities, the STEM 101 Conference not only educates students about STEM, but provides programming for parents to become stronger supporters, understand their financial alternatives and the importance of STEM fields in the marketplace,” the team writes.
The Smith Summer Science and Engineering Program
Affectionately called SSEP, the Smith Summer Science and Engineering Program selects students from across the country to live at Smith College for four weeks and work with the engineering and physical science faculty.
In fact, almost 1,800 high school students from 46 states and 53 countries have participated in the program, which is in its 25th year.
iD Tech’s Alexa Cafe
Half of the United States population is female, but only 12% of computer science graduates are women. iD Tech is working to restore the balance with its all-girls Alexa Cafe camps, held across the country.
Science Club for Girls
SCFG works to foster a love of STEM for girls in underrepresented communities. The organization provides the tools to learn and mentors to help them grow.
Elementary school kids can attend “Show Me the Science,” a reverse science fair where adults teach kids about science with hands-on activities to introduce them to concepts like space and energy. In middle school, the girls graduate into STEMinistas and participate in team-based design challenges, from microbiology to mechanical engineering. They create prototypes and run beta tests on their creations to find ways to improve them.
Invent It. Build It.
The Society of Women Engineers hosts events for middle and high school girls where they can work with mentors and groups to create amazing projects while learning about clubs and camps in their area.
Parents can also attend to learn about college scholarship options and programs for their children.
“By fostering curiosity and giving girls these experiences with engineering activities at an early age, we can better prepare them to explore a future in engineering and keep them enthused and excited at the opportunities available in engineering,” says Karen Horting, CEO and executive director of SWE.
Girls Who Code
While tech is one of the fastest-growing fields, more girls than ever are deciding against STEM programs as they age. Almost 70% of girls age 6 to 12 are interested in enrolling in computer programs, but that number drops to 4% by the time they’re college freshmen. Girls Who Code works to retain women in computing through year-long clubs and summer immersion programs.
Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO, wants girls to focus on the big picture and the effect of their education on local communities. “Whether it’s a game to illustrate the experience of an undocumented immigrant or a website to provide free college prep, our girls create technology that makes the world a better place,” Saujani says.
Today, Girls Who Code works with 10,000 girls in 42 states.
GirlStart creates camps and programs throughout the year for K–12 girls. Not only does the organization believe in fostering a love for STEM subjects and encouraging girls to pursue related careers, but it teaches STEM-thinking as a way of life and problem-solving method.
“Only one in five STEM college students feel that their K–12 education prepared them extremely well for their college courses in STEM,” organizers write. “76% of parents feel that the US is doing a poor job of teaching STEM compared to other countries.”
GirlStart wants to make sure girls have a leg up when entering the field.
Women in Technology B~Stem
The B~Stem Project by Women in Technology International packs a calendar full of activities, presentations, fundraisers, and events to promote girls involvement in STEM fields.
“The goal is simple — to give participants the opportunity to engage in business and technology driven activities while also gaining an introduction into STEM related fields,” organizers write. They encourage WITI members to become mentors to young women and girls to get involved in growing the next generation of STEM ladies.
GEMS: Girls Excelling in Math and Science
GEMS teaches girls that it’s OK to make mistakes when learning about math, tech, and science, as long as you keep pushing forward and fostering your creativity and curiosity. The GEMS Clubs work together to make math less intimidating and bring fun back to the classroom.
GEMS Clubs currently focus on elementary and middle school girls, but they’re adding resources for preschool through grade 2 soon! Check out the apps girls made in the 2017 AppZap Camp on their website.
Digital Youth Divas
As part of the Digital Youth Network, Digital Youth Divas offers a combined online and after-school experience in Chicago. Girls can connect with each other and their mentors online and then come together to solve problems and engage in STEM-related activities.
Girls take everyday items such as jewelry and hair accessories then use their coding or fabrication skills to turn them into something new. Old headbands become LED fashion statements, for example.
This group is perfect for middle-school teens and tweens.
Center for STEM Education for Girls
The Center for STEM Education for Girls hosts a summer institute for girls in grades 7 through 12 where they are “hired” by the Lwala Community Alliance from Kenya.
The LCA understands that problems in the community that affect one aspect (like disease outbreaks or lack of school materials) also affect individuals economically and socially. They work to solve problems that help the region as a whole.
In 2015, they asked rising 9th and 10th graders to improve the design to a bridge, and the winning designs were taken back to evaluate possible implementation.
Eureka! By Girls Inc. of Orange County
Girls, Inc. of Orange County inspires girls to be strong, smart, and bold.
It has a variety of programs that work to mentor and develop young women and prepare them for strong future careers. “The Girls, Inc. experience … equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers and grow into healthy, educated, and independent adults,” organizers write. “Health, education and independence are the three main areas that surround our program curricula.”
There are Eureka! Camps for both middle and high school students to tackle STEM projects and learn more about the field.
Ladies Learning Code
This organization strives to turn women and girls into builders and creators of new technology, not just consumers. They are the proud drivers of code:mobile, Canada’s first traveling computer lab. Girls Learning Code has workshops for girls 6 to 17 years old, and has put on more than 200 events since 2012.
“Girls Learning Code programs are designed to help girls see technology in a whole new light — as a medium for self-expression, and as a means for changing the world,” organizers say.
Girls in Science
The Burke Museum in Seattle created Girls in Science, a hands-on science club for middle and high school girls. Participants study a variety of topics, from biology to oceanography to neuroscience. Act fast because the deadline for applications for Fall 2017 is October 9th!
The Burke Museum also offers summer camps and after-school programs where students meet with female scientists and researchers employed there and learn about their work. “These programs aim to offer real-world experiences in STEM to girls who may not otherwise have access to these opportunities,” organizers say.
The Gills Club
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy works with local research institutions to establish Gills Club meetings all across the United States. Girls 13 and older can receive monthly newsletters and attend local events to learn about the science behind sharks.
“In addition to being a vehicle that will foster positive attitudes towards sharks, we want this group to jumpstart girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects, boosting their chances of entering careers in science,” organizers say.
Girls in Engineering
The UC Berkeley Girls in Engineering Camp works to break down barriers to science and math fields by making them interesting to young girls. It’s a weeklong camp in the Bay Area for 5th, 6th, and 7th grade girls to learn about engineering and what it takes to become one.
Girls learn how to set goals and foster leadership skills like communication. They also learn basic principles of engineering that they can use at the makeshift “work site.”
Today’s campers are tomorrow’s engineering graduates. Join their mailing list to get information about their 2018 summer camps.
DiscoverE Girls Day
Formerly National Engineers Week Foundation, DiscoverE works to grow the engineering profession through outreach and training. It created Girl Day to introduce young women and girls to the world of engineering. The next one is February 22, 2018.
Organizers provide training and resources for engineers so any organization can celebrate Girls Day with the help of DiscoverE. “An engineering degree offers lots of freedom in finding a person’s dream job,” they write.
“…To employers or graduate schools, an engineering degree reflects a well-educated individual who has been taught ways of analyzing and solving problems that can lead to success in all kinds of fields.”
The STEMettes work to inspire ladies to enter one or more STEM fields in their careers. They connect girls with mentors, host hackathons, launch app-building workshops and do everything they can to get girls excited about STEM.
“We’re a tiny team doing what we can to help,” says Founder Anne-Marie Imafidon. “We can’t have women leaders if they’re not joining the industry, or are ignorant of STEM itself. Diversity is important in any industry — and STEM especially. Diversity of thought leads to innovation.”
STEM Oregon works with parents and teachers to bring STEM education tools and provide students with educational experiences outside of the classroom.
Last summer, they hosted Girls Build PDX Camp, where kids learned the basics of mechanical engineering while hammering, painting, and soldering a playhouse. Campers also worked with tradeswomen to learn why they went into the engineering field.
“The playhouse will be donated to a local non-profit, and the girls will see the project through from plans to paint,” organizers write. “All campers receive a hard hat, safety glasses, and ear protection to take home.”
Many of these STEAM organizations are national or statewide, but there are hundreds of local organizations to join near you. Look into your local community to see where ladies are meeting to celebrate STEAM, or talk to your local educators to start a club of your own.