Steering Girls to Science and Tech Careers

 

TB

Middle-school students learn how to solder in an after-school science program.

For Ebony Green, a career as a scientist might have seemed unlikely just last year.

The stereotypical outcome for girls like Ebony, an eighth-grader at Frick Middle School in a rough part of East Oakland, isn’t necessarily a high-paying job in science, math, engineering or technology. In fact, 40 percent of Oakland Unified School District students drop out.

Still, despite her surroundings and the legacy of her race, gender, family background, and income bracket, Ebony sees a different future for herself. She wants to be a pediatrician, or maybe a vet, and she’s starting to take steps to get there.

Last fall, without her mother knowing, Ebony enrolled herself in Techbridge, an after-school science and math program geared specifically to girls. She signed up for math tutoring at school because she’s struggling in the subject. And her science teacher, Ken Eastman, says she even came to his science class twice a day for a while.

“Once these girls get that satisfaction from knowing they can do something that most adults don’t know how to do, that knowledge in itself is so empowering.”

Ebony’s interest in science stands in contrast to the reality of women working in STEM fields. Although women make up half the country’s work force, they comprise less than 25 percent ofSTEM-related jobs, according to a Department of Commerce report from last year.

Apart from the overall problem of cutting out hands-on science projects and tinkering in schools, the issue is even more pointed when it comes to girls. A recent study called “Why So Few” shows that only 20 percent of bachelors degrees in STEM fields go to girls.

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