Bridging the gender gap in the steam Education

Bridging the gender gap in the steam Education

10 Apr 2024

In the search for a future driven by innovation and progress, it is imperative to address and overcome the gender disparities that persist in the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. Although we have made significant progress in recent decades, the gender gap is still a reality that limits the creative and intellectual potential of half the population. Closing this gap is not only a matter of social justice, but an essential strategy for maximizing talent and diversity of perspectives in the STEM world.

One of the primary challenges lies in the gender perceptions and stereotypes that permeate society from an early age. Girls are often led to believe that certain STEM subjects are "for boys", contributing to harmful self-selection. Therefore, the first step in bridging the gender gap is to dismantle these invisible barriers by providing an educational environment that equally encourages boys and girls to explore their passions in STEM.

It is essential to provide equal learning opportunities and access to resources from an early age. Ensuring that girls have access to science, technology and mathematics programs from the earliest school years is essential to developing confidence and interest in these subjects. Facilitating girls' active participation in hands-on activities and practical projects also helps them experience the tangible and engaging side of STEM.

This is why the Oliveira Júnior School often carries out STEM projects in the classroom, and not just in extra-curricular projects. In this way, everyone is automatically included and encouraged to participate. This creates learning spaces that welcome and value a diversity of perspectives, regardless of gender. Encouraging collaboration and teamwork from an early age helps to break down social barriers and promote mutual understanding between genders.

In this STEM project, students are challenged to develop a smart irrigation system that takes into account aspects such as air temperature and humidity, soil moisture and light, in order to, on the one hand, maximize the irrigation effect and, on the other, optimize water use (see images).

The testimonies of some of the students clearly show the enthusiasm with which they participated in the project, as well as the relevance they gave it:

"In my opinion, this STEM activity contributes to better mental development, thus creating a better dynamic in the classroom. This type of lesson creates a more inspiring and interesting environment."

"In my view, this project has helped me not only to change the atmosphere of physics lessons, but also to understand how we can use the content we learn at school for our future."

"In my opinion, carrying out this type of project helps us to understand how we can relate the content learned at school to our future, more specifically in engineering-related jobs."

By bridging the gender gap in STEM education, we are not only providing equal opportunities, but also enriching the STEM community with a wider range of talents and ideas. Investing in equal STEM education is not just a matter of fairness, but a smart strategy to build a more innovative, diverse and sustainable future for all.

Author: Agrupamento de Escolas Oliveira Júnior, Portugal