From Superman and Wonder Woman to Captain America and Black Widow, every spectacular star-spangled superhero team seems to rock and roll with the teamwork of both the XY and XX chromosomes. While our world may not have the fantasy superhero team flying in the sky or wearing red capes everyday to work, we do have non-caped superheroes all around us – Mom and Dad, teachers and professors, firefighters and police officers, doctors and scientists. Like the power of our DC and Marvel teams, men and women alike play crucial roles in contributing and cultivating our communities for the greater good.
It thus seems reasonable to assume that both genders represent occupations relatively equally. However, reality is not always so clear. In a recent 2010 research report discussed by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), researchers find it puzzling how there are so few women representating the fields of engineering, science and technology, and mathematics (STEM). In fact, men dominate 76% of STEM occupations, leaving women in the minority of 24% (1). Inherent negative social stereotypes and gender biases seem to unconsciously and consciously impede young females’ performances and beliefs- that perhaps, girls really are not meant to be in anything ‘science’ and ‘mathy.’ That, girls may not be ‘smart.’ These implicit biases retard many young girls’ growth mindsets and discourage them from pursuing aspirations and careers in STEM at a young age.
Fighting against a downward current of negative stereotypes, girls struggled to stay afloat in the realm of science and math. Gender disparities in STEM majors in university and careers persisted, and have only recently improved in the 21st century. The stereotype threat is a dangerous phenomenon, but with more organizations raising awareness for gender equality in STEM, statistics have shown that girls are anything but “not brainy.” In fact, according to the US Department of Education, high school girls’ grade point averages in mathematics and science combined are higher than those of boys since 1990 to 2005 (US Department of Education). Girls’ math and science scores in school have dramatically increased over the last few years and continue to skyrocket. This improvement comes in thank to the increased advocacy and awareness for women in STEM, as well as new accepting learning environments, encouraging more girls to pursue their passions in science and math at school. Society of Women Engineers and Association for Women in Science are two of many organizations that have contributed to this movement, beating against the currents of odds to empower females and minorities.
The movement helps elevate girls to pursue STEM careers that they would have not otherwise if they were discouraged. The key is empowerment. And, Joely, a student from the University of Washington in the United States, does exactly that.
Joely created an educational and interactive game called “STEM Curator: Women in STEM,” to highlight the importance of empowering women to enter STEM programs in the future. Programmed through MIT’s Scratch programming, the game “STEM Curator: Women in STEM” features a museum intern (you, the player!) tasked to design a museum to empower girls in STEM, Science and Technology, Engineering and Math. With interactive vector art and beautiful design, Joely’s project is featured below. Click the picture below to play the game and press the green flag to start:
Our team at Moosmosis also got a wonderful interview from our member Joely!
1) What inspired you to create your STEM curator project?
The final project for my English class was to make a project about identity and language. I decided to focus on something close to me, women in STEM. From an early age, I took a note of gender disparity in STEM. I noticed that very few of my female friends expressed an interest in science and technology, and even fewer in math or programming. I experienced discouragement from being the only girl in programming classes, having my gender constantly pointed out, and others expressing doubt that I was interested in anything STEM related. I wanted to explore how society discourages women from entering STEM fields, and steps toward a solution, and thought it would be fun to do that with an interactive game! I’ve been using Scratch since I was 11, and thought it was a great platform that could reach an audience of children and tweens beginning to program, helping inspire and empower them.
2) What message do you hope players/visitors can take from the game?
I hope players not only see that the discouragement women face when entering STEM fields is entirely cultural, but also there are steps they can take to help solve the problem. I think too often social justice focuses too much on problems and blame, which isolates and makes supporters feel helpless. I want everyone playing to feel empowered and connected and like they can make a difference.
3) How long did it take to create your project? What aspect of the game are you most proud of?
From planning to completion it was about 2-3 weeks. Most of the time was for research and development and gathering images. The actual coding took 6 hours. The thing I’m most proud of is how this project has been received, and all the all the comments and interactions with other Scratch users. Comments about how the project inspired them, STEM programs they participate in, and their plans for the future, are so heartwarming. When I’m having a bad day, it inspires me to keep going.
4) Last but not least, what are your future aspirations and career plans?
I’m currently at the University of Washington, majoring in computer science. I would love to apply my skills to a positive cause, possibly relating to education or the environment.
Thank you Joely for your passion in STEM! For more of Joely’s work, check out her personal website at http://createdbyjojo.tumblr.com. You can also reach out to her on her Linkedin and Scratch programming page.
- American Association of University Women. http://www.aauw.org/research/why-so-few/
- National Center for Education Statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014001rev.pdf
- Women in Stem: A Gender Gap to Innovation. http://www.esa.doc.gov/sites/default/files/womeninstemagaptoinnovation8311.pdf
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