For far too long, women and girls have been underrepresented in STEM. Only one in four computer science undergrads in Canada identify as female. This underrepresentation means computer science — and society-at-large — risks losing women’s perspectives and contributions. We also know that, in today’s digital world, technology is more than a valuable tool – it is an essential skill, regardless of who you are or what you do.
So, how do we inspire more girls and young women to fulfill a critical role in STEM? That’s where girl-led content comes in.
Girl-led content is when girls take an active role in determining the “what, where, when, why and how” of their education. When they can take an active role in shaping their education, girls feel empowered to become confident, capable and informed leaders who forge their own sense of identity and belonging within and outside of STEM learning.
Here are the four ways teachers, parents or mentors can develop meaningful girl-led content:
Let their voices be heard. It is critical girls are provided a safe space to speak up about what is important to them. They should be invited to share ideas and contribute to future program development. Consider how feedback from girls could shape your programming through things like regular brainstorms and other feedback mechanisms.
Foster a safe space for learning – one that shows respect and empathy. When girls feel safe, they feel like they belong, and that sense of belonging leads to confidence to try new and innovative things.
You can make your learning space inclusive by considering who is and isn’t present. Who leads the sessions? Who gets to make choices? How do these aspects affect what your girls are learning? The way a program or activity is designed is as important as its content.
Let girls make their own choices. For girl-led content to be successful, girls must feel comfortable to share their ideas and be confident that these ideas matter. Find ways to let their decisions influence your activities, and give them the time and space to shape projects that excite them. When girls feel excited and confident to make their own choices, they’re more likely to act on their ideas.
Ask yourself, “how can this activity support girls in making their ideas happen?”.
Encourage girls to question, disagree and challenge ideas presented by their parents, teachers, and peers. It’s a meaningful way to learn and consider the opinions of others. You can also look for opportunities that allow them to test ideas, adjust them and try again. Failing and iterating is an essential part of science, engineering, learning and life.
Actua challenges you to think critically when developing learning content and look for opportunities to celebrate digital skills as something for everyone, especially girls. These girls will become the programmers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, engineers, doctors, artists and leaders of tomorrow — and we’ll all be better for it.