All over the United States, Girl Scouts are earning badges in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). For example, in Michigan, the Girl Scouts held several STEM events over the past year, including “STEM Careers at Google,” “Cybersecurity for Brownies,” and “Leap Bot Challenge.”
Studies show that girls love STEM, but lose interest at around 15 years of age due to a lack of mentorship, hands-on experience, and gender inequality in science and technology. The effect can be particularly harmful for young girls of color.
“If young girls, especially young girls of color, can’t or don’t see people that look like them in STEM careers, it’s much more difficult for them to even consider these careers in the first place,” Hattie Hill, president and CEO of the TD Jakes Foundation, told DM Magazine.
As the U.S. grows more ethnically diverse, there’s a greater urgency to support girls of color in STEM. In December, the Girl Scouts of the USA released the third edition of a report called “The State of Girls 2017: Emerging Trends and Troubling Truths,” which details state and national trends that impact girls’ well being. According to the report, girls in the U.S. are more racially and ethnically diverse now than before the Great Recession of 2008. Additionally, poverty rates have risen for U.S. girls across all racial groups since 2007.
The Girl Scouts want to reverse these troubling trends by attracting more girls, especially those from diverse racial backgrounds, to the organization. Many women who start out as Girl Scouts become successful STEM leaders. According to the organization, 80 percent of female technology leaders and half of women business leaders have been Girl Scouts.
“We want them to be ‘no limit’ thinkers,” Girl Scouts CEO Jan Barker told 3WWMT West Michigan said of girls. “A girl can try anything right now. She can make a robot, make a science experiment, try a flight simulator — those are all things we do in Girl Scouts.”
Girls are also finally getting the hands-on STEM experience they need with a lab of their own. In Dallas, Texas, the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas’ STEM Center of Excellence opened in 2018. Built on 92 acres, the giant lab gives girls a place to dabble in computer coding, chemistry, coding, robotics, botany, and much more.