Girls in STEM
What's the problem?
It’s no secret that the statistics regarding women in STEM fields are bleak. As a woman in STEM, I wanted to help create a better world for my kids. My daughter and son deserve a world where people can follow their passions, no matter what their gender, race, or income level. Your kids deserve that too.
Why is diversity in STEM important?
In short, it makes life better for everyone to widen the data pool, even the people who are currently the majority in these fields. It’s simple science; the wider your data pool, the better your results. Science and engineering are all about finding answers to problems. But you can't answer a question you don't understand, and you can't ask a question you don't even know you need to ask! People living in Hawaii, for instance, don't have to worry about snow removal. So if your snow removal company is based on a tropical island, you might not understand all the challenges that come with snow removal. If all the people in a technology or engineering company are from the same background, they will probably encounter all the same kinds of problems. Then everyone from different backgrounds gets left out, and their problems never get solved. Making sure EVERYONE has a seat at the table to both ask and help solve problems makes the answers better, stronger, and more useful.
What can we do?
In 2015, I partnered with a friend, also from a STEM field, to create the Renegade Girls Tinkering Club, a 501(c)3 organization providing our unique summer and after school enrichment programs for girls-only and coed groups. Our goal is to scaffold engineering, science, and math skills, and build confidence for girls in grades k-5 through fun, hands-on projects.
We are a small non-profit, but follow the philosophy "do all the good you can, for all the people you can, wherever you can." We reach about a thousand kids a year. Yay!
What comes next?
The work isn’t done. As my own daughter aged out of our program and started middle school, the challenges confronting her changed. The problems matured along with the grade levels. Her friends started to doubt themselves, and as a result, begin to drop behind in classes they previously loved. And it wasn’t just doubt. There are lots of challenges facing tween and teen girls that, frankly, boys the same age just don't have to deal with. These problems could no longer be addressed by fun, hands-on projects. Skill acquisition isn’t the root of Middle School STEM dropout. Study after study after study after study show that girls are as good at, if not better than, boys in these fields in school. So how could Renegades expand our reach? How can we help?
A strengths-based opportunity
Statistically speaking, 8-12 year old girls read voraciously! It’s, statistically, one of their strongest skill sets, and some researchers theorize that might ironically be a reason they don't pursue STEM fields. What a great opportunity to encourage them to continue their love of science and engineering! However, STEM-based fiction for this age seems to be mostly books about secret schools, geniuses, and magical powers. Genius super witches attending secret spy schools are fun, but are the characters truly identifiable? Can the reader say "if she can do it, I can too"? Especially at a time when girls' self-esteem is most vulnerable? When girls are judged more for their appearance than anything else and they start questioning their own abilities more than ever before? When young girls are most likely to say "I haven't gotten an invitation to a secret school, so I guess I can't do what she's doing"?
What if I could use girls' statistically strong reading skills to help them, and convert the most loved and engaging of the curricula I’ve written into fiction books, I wondered? What if these books starred REALISTIC characters who face real world doubts and challenges? Who go on plausible adventures? What if I could make it fun while still keeping the content appropriate for a wider range of kids? Like the Babysitters Club with engineering instead of babies?
Thus was born The Renegade Girls Tinkering Club series.
One Renegade solution
Readers join Wren, Amber, Ivy, Kaminia, and Trixie as they tinker their way into and out of trouble. Each book features an exciting adventure with problems faced and solved by girls just like them, in addition to a curriculum's-worth of build-able projects. Readers can make the inventions along with the Renegades following the illustrated, comic style guides and the more in-depth instructions contained within the stories themselves!
Each book introduces the reader to amazing renegade women from history, steps them through the various processes and methods used by STEM professionals to problem-solve when faced with an overwhelming question, and deals with some of the many problems facing girls today trying to maintain their love of STEM as they struggle with middle school challenges.