02.06.18

Girl Scouts Preparedness: A Future In Tech

Kate Allen, Millennial Blogger

I used to wear the brown sash with the bright patches. I was third runner-up for top cookie seller two years in a row. I remember the songs we sang, the crafts we did, and the field trips that we took. I used to be a Girl Scout. I am now a writer working in the tech industry. When I came across a recent Fast Company article We Need More Women In STEM: The Girl Scouts Want to Help, by Ben Paynter, I was positively floored.

The article states, “While women make up roughly half of the college-educated U.S. workforce, they account for less than 30% of STEM jobs.” The broad view of this STEM focus for Girl Scouts is impressing upon young girls that they can make a huge difference through STEM. According to Girl Scouts, “Younger members: about 74% of the group’s younger members report being interested in the STEM field, although that enthusiasm often falls away as they get older.” That second part is key: maintaining that interest in STEM as they get older.

Girls Scouts is offering NEW STEM Journeys with programs like Engineering: Think Like an Engineer; Computer Science: Think Like a Programmer; Outdoor STEM: Think Like a Citizen Scientist. What I found especially interesting is that some Brownie Troops (grades 2-3) are introducing the ideas of coding and algorithms. The concept of normalizing the use of algorithms at a young age is a big deal, and let me tell you why. When I got to college I was required to take a mandatory coding class. Going into that class my first day and looking at all the information and concepts I was suddenly expected to work with felt equivalent to what I would imagine it would feel like if you couldn’t swim and someone tied you up, threw you into the ocean at high tide, and said “figure it out, you’re being graded.”

So, why wouldn’t more women be intimidated by the world of tech, coding, and sciences if they weren’t being exposed to this world until much later in life when it all seems Greek? Making algorithms a means of problem solving and making the mere terminology fun and familiar is extremely likely to help girls feel ten times more comfortable, included, and confident in this field than, frankly, most of the women in my coding class ever were.

This could translate into an insurgence of women entering male dominated STEM professions, including entrepreneurship. Programs like WEOC Launch Women Business Builders Program are helping to address this gap as well. Three women-owned tech businesses are accelerating their ventures through the program, which launched January 2018.

Girl Scouts Computer Science Education Week video features members who are honoring women in STEM who have “transformed our world.” Please take note: “1.8 million girls currently participate in the Girl Scouts. The cybersecurity world just so happens to be facing a projected skills gap of 1.8 million qualified workers within the next five years,” said Paynter.

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