15 Mar GIRL SCOUTS CEO: WHY INVESTING IN STEM MATTERS

“The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers.”

-Juliette Gordon Low, founder Girl Scouts of the USA

Juliette Gordon Low recognized, from the inception of Girl Scouts, that girls are capable of being trailblazers, visionaries and history makers. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we reflect on the incredible strides and accomplishments of the 59 million Girl ScoutS alumnae, while looking to the future to ensure that girls today are equipped to blaze their own trails.

For nearly a century, the Girls Scouts of Tropical Florida has connected girls in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties with opportunities to build courage, confidence and character and unleash their inner Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker and Leader (G.I.R.L.). What we’ve seen generation to generation is that, in equipping girls with tools, knowledge and encouragement, they are inspired to step up and lead in the classroom, on the field and in the boardroom. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields are creative, challenging and it is what future innovation is built on. Yet, these fields have long been dominated by men. The Girl Scouts are trying to change that.

To be competitive in the global market, over the next decade the U.S. will need an astounding one million more STEM professionals than it is currently on track to produce. This tech talent gap is expected to continue to grow. Deepening the talent gap is the underrepresentation of women in STEM. In fact, women hold less than 28 percent of STEM jobs nationwide, but make up more than 47 percent of the workforce. This problem will not fix itself. How can we support more girls to increase participation in STEM fields?

Help her access STEM opportunities
To be effective and long-lasting, STEM engagement needs to start early. The hands-on experience girls get in STEM clubs and activities stoke their interest. Through Girl Scouts, for example, girls are able to earn badges in cybersecurity, space science, digital art, innovation, computer coding, supported by partnerships with NASA, National Science Foundation and Microsoft, among others. Other local nonprofits like Code/Art, Dibia Dream and Girls Who Code host regular events, workshops and camps for girls (and boys) to participate in STEM activities year-round. During spring breaks, Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, Frost Science and Florida International University offer eco-adventures, science and STEM mini-camps.

Connect her to a role model or mentor
Encouragement from teachers, parents and mentors is a crucial factor in attracting and retaining female talent to STEM careers. Girls are opting out as their interest in STEM declines over time. Kindergarten-aged boys and girls show equal interest for STEM activities, yet by the third grade girls begin opting out of STEM saying that it’s “for boys.” Seeing women who have succeeded in STEM helps inspire and motivate girls, especially when they can relate to these role models as people with lives outside of work. Organizations like Code Fever Miami, Girls Who Code and Launch Code are a good place to start.

Take the Girl Scouts STEM pledge
The Girl Scout STEM pledge is a nationwide initiative to bring 2.5 million girls into the STEM pipeline by 2025. Our commitment to encouraging girls in STEM is already yielding real results as 77 percent of girls say that, because of Girl Scouts, they are considering a career in technology.

Our founder, Juliette, was an ardent believer in the potential of all girls and the importance of fostering their individual growth, character, and self-sufficiency. Juliette is credited with establishing and nurturing a global movement that has changed the world. We continue in her legacy, ensuring that today’s girls are positioned to continue to trailblaze tomorrow’s history.

Chelsea Wilkerson is CEO of Girls Scouts of Tropical Florida, a Community Grants recipient.

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