Two items came out out of the Women and STEAM Event Hosted on the Southern Polytechnic State Campus in Marietta, Georgia. SPSU will soon merge with Kennesaw State University and will soon be known as the Marietta campus of KSU. Thus, faculty, staff, students, and administration pulled together to consider initiatives concerning women and the Sciences, Technology, Engineering, Architecture/Arts, and Mathematics for both the Marietta and Kennesaw campuses. While some of the concerns were about the Marietta campus (the need for better lighting for evening classes), the first item which is a list of the top five reasons women should participate in the STEAM fields, and most of the second item, the top ten ideas for initiatives.
Nancy’s Top 5 Reasons for Women to Participate in STEAM Fields
Here I wanted to look at the reasons (other than enrollment growth) for girls and women to participate in the STEAM fields. As an English teacher, I’m not advocating these choices because they are better choices than other fields of study. Instead I am focusing on how women and the U.S. culture benefits when we do not artificially determine that half of the population should not participate in certain fields of study based on their gender. The list moves from abstract educational issues to individual and family growth and choices.
- STEAM fields teach problem solving skills: those in the STEAM fields must use both critical and creative thinking to solve problems. They answer questions such as “how to do stuff,” what other ways we can do stuff, and why we should consider thinking and doing things in a different way. The American culture benefits from those who take on these questions and provide new ways of thinking. The more people capable of problem solving the better for all of us.
- Art and Beauty: We often see the Humanities and the STEAM fields as separate. However, many of the STEAM fields are about creating items for human use, and humans have always been interested in art and beauty whether it concerns a mathematics problem or whether it concerns paintings hung in a museum. As women become the consumers who buy and use “art” produced in the STEAM fields, so too should they become part of the group who produces it.
- Diversity: Creative thinking can be about shifting your perspective to understand an idea in a different way. Without the ability to brainstorm and generate ideas in many ways, there is no growth in how we understand and produce things. The STEAM fields benefit from incorporating shifting perspectives. Women provide perspectives that contribute to fields of study. When women are absent, or nearly absent, from our classrooms, our businesses, and our design processes, we lose perspectives that could have enriched our ideas and in the end our products and our lives.
- Opportunity: When we tell one group of people that they cannot participate or should not participate in a field of study, we stifle an individual’s growth. As soon as we tell men and women that they only have certain choices, we limit their potential and their choices to identity with a certain thing or a certain group.
- Family: Sooner or later we are limiting the choices of our mothers, sisters, and daughters and other relatives. As Dr. Koger pointed out in his story about his granddaughter, gender shouldn’t determine which courses we must take in our academic careers. Home economics is not a poor choice for either a girl or a boy if the girl or boy is interested in the subject matter. It only becomes a problem when a female child is pushed in one direction and a male child is pushed in another direction entirely simply because of gender.
Nancy’s Top 10 Items for a Women’s STEAMULUS Package
Women’s STEAMULUS Package to be defined in a similar way to an economic stimulus package—in other words, we’re looking to raise the profile of women in the STEAM culture much as a president would use an economic stimulus package to promote economic growth. Listed in order of short term to long term (warning: of course, this list is not as funny as Letterman’s top ten lists). These were what I picked out based on what I heard and read. Reply and tell me where I went wrong if you think I missed something.
- What can be done now—right now: advertise programs such as Fashion Design since they already exist and attract female students in the current culture.
- Focus on how women benefit by bringing more women to campus rather than on how men benefit.
- Learn what clubs, activities, and events are happening on the two campuses right now. Pull these ideas together in a central location and COMMUNICATE THEM.
- Coordinate and Collaborate among invested groups to host events and to bring girls and women to campus as well as to get invested groups to k-12 schools in the area.
- Lights! Lights! Lights! The Marietta campus is and has been poorly lit. Help women in evening classes feel comfortable about taking evening classes by providing better lighting on campus.
- Communicate using new media such as Youtube and mobile apps, and we should ask students to participate in creating this communication whether for informing communities on campus or off campus about STEAM incentives for women.
- Create camps for girls to introduce them to STEAM and connect with on-campus groups such as the Society of Women Engineering and off-campus communities and organizations such as Women in Technology, the Girl Scouts and YWCA’s Teen Girls in Technology. We should use hot topics such as robotics, video games, and so on to get the attention of young girls.
- Work to recover information on women engineers, inventors, architects, mathematicians, scientists, computer scientists, and so on. Do you know the names of the women who invented the following things? Windshield wipers, the dishwasher, COBOL computer language, first circular saw used in a sawmill, and the square-bottomed paper bag.
- Write grants for funding the women’s initiative and create a central location for women and STEAM.
- Help to change the K – 12 culture by creating mentoring activities and partnerships of faculty in STEAM fields and Education with K – 12 faculty. We need to work on creating continual connections to the communities near the campuses as well as to K – 12 schools in the area. We need to hire more women in leadership and faculty positions especially and we need to examine the ways in which we pursue women candidates.
Again, write me if you have ideas that you believe trump my top ten list. I hope a number of you recognized your ideas on this list. Thanks for brainstorming with those of us committed to bringing more women into the STEAM fields.
Pictures from the STEAM event can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Sopowo.