Female role models in maths

There is a lot of talk about how we can get more women interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). Most of the discussion and initiatives focus on action at a national level. This is important, but will take time. What can you do if the problem is immediate and closer to home? If your daughter, sister, niece etc. used to enjoy a STEM subject but is losing self belief?

The teenage years are a particularly difficult time. Girls are so desperate to fit in that they may start to hide a talent for STEM from their peers. Unfortunately when they start pretending not to be very good at STEM subjects this can be self fulfilling. They spend less time practising, their teachers believe that they are not very good, they avoid extra curricula activities and ultimately choose subjects based on fitting in rather than what they enjoy and are talented at. What a sad waste!

Parents find it difficult to change this course directly because teenagers are naturally much more motivated by the approval of their peers than their parents. This is a normal stage of growing up and becoming independent. So what can you do?

Firstly expose your teenager to media which value women in STEM. Try these lists of books

and these twitter accounts

as starting points.

Older and very motivated teenagers will benefit from a mentor (the stemettes have a scheme). However this kind of formal mentoring needs to be driven by the mentee and this is a lot to ask of a teenager.

Finally a female STEM tutor can be a great role model and show your teenager that it is ok to be a woman and be fantastic at STEM. Contact me on anna.granta@gmail.com if you would like a female STEM tutor in Cambridge (UK).

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