When my daughters attended coding camp, they were the only girls enrolled. The teachers were welcoming, and the girls were proud of what they learned. But they didn’t make any new friends. When asked if they wanted to continue with coding, neither one said yes.
Technically, girls have access to the same science resources as boys, but it’s a lonely road. The percentage of girls interested in technology drops from two-thirds in elementary school to one-third by high school and the percentage of technology jobs filled by women has decreased from 37 percent in 1995 to 24 percent today. It’s not surprising, but the repercussions are drastic.
The pay gap will never close while women are siphoned away from high paying fields, and there is growing evidence that widespread gender bias in research has generated flawed results, with particular implications for women’s health.
We can protect girls’ interest in STEM by providing female role models and an encouraging, hands-on community of like-minded future scientists. Fortunately, our area is rich in resources specifically for budding female scientists.
Girls in Science connects middle and high school girls with female scientists to offer real-world STEM experiences. The middle school program meets one Sunday per month through the school year; applications are open through Oct. 1.
The high school program has winter and spring sessions; applications for winter are open through Dec. 21. Priority is given to candidates with a strong desire to learn and limited access to positive science experiences.
Both programs are free.
Genome Hackers is a high school summer camp run by graduate women in the University of Washington's Genome Sciences department. The camp integrates biology and computer science with programming, lab techniques and DNA sequence analysis.
Campers present their findings to the Genome Sciences department. Tuition is only $50, and scholarships are available.
The volunteer-run Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science (GEMS) is a free program for seventh- and eighth-grade girls attending Seattle public schools. The program will be providing hands-on activities, mentoring, field trips and information about a variety of fields.
Sign up online to be notified when applications for the 2018-19 school year open.
Amelia’s Aero Club is a Museum of Flight STEAM program for middle school girls offering hands-on activities, book clubs, sleepovers, introductions to industry professionals, field trips, competitions and special events at the Museum.
The Museum also hosts Women Fly, an annual day of activities allowing middle school and high school girls to meet and learn from women in STEM careers.
Girls Who Code establishes after-school Clubs Program for third through 12th grades around Puget Sound and beyond. Clubs work in teams on computer science projects to solve real problems.
The Campus Program offers summer courses for sixth- through 12th-grade girls, and the Summer Immersion Program gives 10th- and 11th-grade girls intensive coding courses at major tech companies.
All three programs are free.
School-based chapters of IGNITE Worldwide offer panel discussions with women in STEM careers, field trips to corporations to see women at work in STEM, interactive workshops and job shadowing. Female enrollment in computer science and engineering classes at participating schools increased between 30 and 80 percent.
Inspiring Girls Expeditions’ tuition-free wilderness expeditions give teens 12 days in the field studying glaciers, volcanoes and marine science. Applications (opening in December) are competitive but are not strictly based on academic achievement.
Although programs are tuition-free, with food and equipment provided, they do involve travel costs.
SPIN Girls is launching this fall to provide eighth graders immersive STEM experiences and mentorship by professionals of color from across King County. Ten sessions over the course of a school year will be divided between project-based learning and visits to partner organizations.
Applications are open until filled, but space is limited for this free program.