Stepping into the National Home Builders Association Residential Construction Management Competition should have been nothing new for a high school architecture team from the Dysart Unified School District in Surprise, Ariz. But this was different. History was being made with the first all-female team participating in the competition. When that female team won the event, it marked a change in an industry-level event previously dominated by male students. These young women participated in STEM programs and excelled.

Closing the gap

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration, women fill approximately half of all jobs in the U.S. economy. Despite this they hold fewer than 25 percent of STEM-related jobs. Projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicates STEM-related jobs will grow to more than nine million from 2012 to 2022. There needs to be an effort in schools to get more women and girls interested in the areas of STEM.

Exposing female students to high-quality STEM programs that engage students in hands-on learning experiences promotes enthusiasm. The School Superintendents Association (AASA) partnered with JASON Learning, an award-winning leader in STEM education. Together, they provided schools with resources to enhance teaching and learning in STEM. Beyond having a high-quality STEM curriculum, this program exposes students to STEM experts, providing female students with women role models in the field. Schools need these the types of programs and experiences engaging students from elementary to high school to build interest and competence. This is especially vital for young women and girls who may not have other opportunities to explore STEM-related activities.

“Exposing female students to high-quality STEM programs that engage students in hands-on learning experiences promotes enthusiasm.”

Encouraging the next generation

To address the workforce needs, we must encourage our young women and men to become those scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians. Schools must break away from the old unsubstantiated notion that males are more capable in STEM-related areas and recognize it is critical that each child be encouraged and supported in identifying interests and passions.

Walking out of the competition hall and into the history books, the Dysart District team made its mark. More female students can meet that challenge if we give them the resources and the opportunities.