How Female Engineers are Nurtured in the Girl Scouts with STEM

How Female Engineers are Nurtured in the Girl Scouts with STEM blog header
How Female Engineers are Nurtured in the Girl Scouts with STEM blog header
How Female Engineers are Nurtured in the Girl Scouts with STEM blog header

How Female Engineers are Nurtured in the Girl Scouts with STEM

When it comes to engineering a better future, the Girl Scouts are leading the way. With its STEM programs and strategic partnerships, young girls are breaking stereotypes, tinkering in maker labs and watching role models in action. They are not only getting hands-on engineering experience, they’re learning leadership and communications. Some 77 percent of girls say that, because of Girl Scouts, they are considering a career in technology, according to a study conducted by the Girl Scouts Research Council. The study also notes that a majority of girls report being more confident in their science and math abilities after participating in Girl Scout STEM programs.

Gina Federico sees the value of teaching girls about STEM early. Federico is a Girl Scout troop leader with experience in science and education. She’s a Training and Policy Assistant with Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning and a former educator at the Carnegie Museum’s summer science camp. She says, “Studies show young girls are discouraged about going into the STEM field. They don’t see women role models, and they might not be given the toys at home to explore, or the opportunities at school.” Federico notes, “Girl Scouts is [sic] trying to counter that by saying you, too, can go into STEM. You can explore these careers with weather badges, chemistry badges, physics badges, and get more in-depth in technology and computer programs.”

Research conducted by the Girl Scouts has found favorable results introducing STEM to the Scouts and integrating STEM education with The Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE). In the study, they found, “Through our STEM programs, girls become resourceful problem solvers, challenge seekers, promotors of cooperation and team building, and feel empowered to make a difference in the world.”

There’s a badge for that

The Girls Scouts introduced a “Think like an engineer badge,” where girls practice on maker-lab projects. Scouts also explore STEM topics while working on badges in Digital Art, Science and Technology, Innovation, and Financial Literacy. Selling cookies has gone high-tech with its digital cookie app. Not only does it give budding leaders great experience in communication, organization, goal-setting and leadership, Federico uses cookie sales to teach math and money concepts.

The Girl Scouts has teamed with the Society of Women Engineers, which grants girls under age 18 a complimentary membership in their SWENext category. SWENext encourages girls to #BeThatEngineer with a newsletter, advice column and resources for adults to support their budding engineers. The Scouts have a strategic partnership with the National Science Foundation to provide programs for low-income communities. Scouts get to work alongside mentors in programs such as the FIRST Robotics teams with Motorola, UTC and Google, and in Journey and Connect Through Technology with Dell. It’s also partnered with Ingersoll Rand, NASA and the New York Academy of Sciences.

Girl power

The Girl Scouts’ research found, “a majority of girls across programs consistently agree that in their STEM program there is at least one adult who makes ‘me feel like I am valuable.’” It’s that kind of mentoring that is encouraging girls to succeed and is part of the Scouts Imagine Your STEM Future program. Federico says troop leaders are looking for people with engineering expertise to be great role models.

The SKY is no longer a limit

Today’s Girl Scouts are in some pretty good company when it comes to STEM role models. Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was a Girl Scout. So is the first female space shuttle commander Lt. Col. Eileen Collins and the first British and Canadian women in space. Not only are these successful astronauts Girl Scouts, they are international STEM leaders and demonstrate to girls that the sky is no longer a limit.

Once women make it into engineering and technology fields it’s important that they continue to build their skills and abilities so that they can take on higher level and management roles In the future.  Kettering University’s MS Engineering Management does this well by providing men and women in engineering roles the chance to enhance their skills.

For further reading, check out this infographic: Where are all the women in STEM?