art to steamArt should be added to STEM because women in STEM need the creative and innovative education to guide them into STEM careers. Most girls connect with liberal arts like art, dance, music, and drama so why not take advantage of their interests and integrate the visual arts into the curriculum to create STEAM. In 1994 the American Association of University Women (AAUW) released an executive summary outlining the short changing of American girls in education. The research was based upon a national survey on gender bias that linked the sharp drop in self-esteem of pre-adolescent and adolescent American girls to what they were learning in school. The report launched educational reform for 23 million schoolgirls in K-12. The AAUW was requests that in an increasingly technological society, we can no longer afford to let our schools sideline girls and discourage their achievement. In the study, the AAUW found that schools systematically cheated girls of classroom attention, by stressing competitive–rather than cooperative–learning and textbooks were devoid of women as role models and reinforced negative stereotypes about girls’ abilities. Today, 20 years later, we have not gained much ground on girls entering STEM careers.

Women now make up the majority (57%) in the colleges and universities across America, yet only earned 23% of all bachelor’s degrees in STEM-related subjects.  One way to improve this situation may be to address the challenges that cause girls to lose interest in STEM subjects. There are many challenges for girls in school and they include unsupportive classroom environments, outdated pedagogy, women earn less and advance more slowly than their male counterparts, and a lack of role models.

Research shows that females really prefer pink and using the feminine color to represent women and girls can be an added bonus, although appealing to females’ interest should mean more than making science posters out of pink paper–but girls do have different learning styles–and what appeals to them may not appeal to boys. These differences are significant enough that schools should attract girls to STEM by focusing on teamwork, art, and collaboration. STEAM is the future of education curriculum for girls in schools.

STEAM can change perceptions and beliefs about gender gaps in mathematics and science fields. Schools should cultivate girl’s achievement and interest in science and engineering and design curriculum that provides an environment of learning.  STEAM can create school settings to support women in science and engineering, and counteracting bias. Women are half the population and essentially are an untapped resource to propel the United States back to the top of the scientific and global competitiveness.

Deborah Gustlin