Posts Tagged ‘K–12 Education’

A primate researcher, a cybersecurity specialist, the head of a wildlife clinic, and a tech CEO: If you were a fifth-grade girl in Naples, Florida, you could meet these women professionals — as well as 99 other girls who love science and math as much as you do — all in the same day. Super Savvy STEM Girls = Success is this year’s title for the 16th annual conference for girls interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) hosted by the AAUW Greater Naples Area (FL) Branch on February 9.

daughter STEM conference

Conferences provide a valuable opportunity to spark girls’ interest in STEM. They introduce girls to women role models so that girls can see themselves in careers relevant to their interests. Girls can also try out interactive activities that make STEM fun while giving them the confidence that they can succeed in these fields.

“Our aim is to help each girl feel comfortable and independent in a safe environment and help her reach out to others,” writes conference co-chair Mary Schell. One hundred girls from elementary schools in the Naples area will spend the day in career workshops led by 10 local women professionals. Meanwhile, parents will hear from educators and career experts how to help their daughters prepare for high school, college, and a career.

Not in the Naples area? Not to worry. February and March may be two of the coldest months of the year, but they’re also two of the hottest months for STEM conferences at AAUW branches.

Girls will be having fun with STEM from coast to coast — from Girls Exploring Tomorrow’s Technology in Pennsylvania to Discovery Day for moms and daughters in California — and everywhere in between. Expanding Your Horizons conferences are taking place at AAUW branches and other sites nationwide, including five locations in Texas alone. To find out if there will be an event in your area, get in touch with your local branch and follow AAUW STEM on Facebook for updates.

If you are a member of a local branch, AAUW wants to make it easier for you to get involved in hosting a STEM conference of your own. The new Tech Savvy national program will award grants to 10 branch or state organizations to fund a daylong event for girls and their parents this year. For a preview of what the Tech Savvy program will bring to your area, you can check out the original Tech Savvy in Buffalo, New York, on March 16.

This winter, don’t miss out! Tell a girl you know who has a passion for STEM or take your own daughter to an AAUW conference in your area and help her enter the creative, exciting, and innovative world of STEM.

This post was written by AAUW STEM Program Associate Alexa Silverman.

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Although great advances have been made in the last 40 years thanks to Title IX, the fight for women’s equality in athletics is far from over. The High School Athletics Accountability Act (House) and the High School Data Transparency Act (Senate) were reintroduced this week by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to help further gender equality in school athletics. The bills specifically require that high schools report basic data on the numbers of female and male students in their athletic programs and the expenditures made for their sports teams.

See more of our cute, awkward, and awesome photos celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day on our Tumblr

Federal law already requires colleges to report this data, but the same standard is not required of secondary institutions. High schools currently collect this data; it is just not being publicly reported. This lack of transparency undermines the purpose of Title IX; without transparency, there can be no reform. As it stands, girls comprise half of the high school population but receive only 41 percent of all athletic participation opportunities — 1.3 million fewer female than male high school athletes — and sometimes receive inferior coaching, equipment, facilities, and scheduling. Further, offering girls equal opportunities in sports is about achieving more than equality; studies have shown that girls and women who participate in sports are less likely to get pregnant, drop out of school, do drugs, smoke, or develop mental illnesses.

In my own high school, I witnessed and experienced many inequities in our athletic program. Going to a “game” almost always implied a men’s competition, whether it was basketball, soccer, or swimming. Even female student athletes I knew frequently talked about watching men’s games — including attending as a team to root for their male counterparts. However, I don’t think I ever heard any male student athletes talk about returning the support for their female peers, and unsurprisingly when I did attend a women’s basketball game, the bleachers were nearly empty.


See more of our cute, awkward, and awesome photos celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day on our Tumblr.

This isn’t to say that I believe that the High School Athletics Accountability Act or the High School Data Transparency Act would necessarily change the reality: We have a long way to go to achieve equality in the minds of both women and men when it comes to sports. But these proposed laws take a step in the right direction. When the inequities are out in the open we can more readily act to resolve them. And in time, with more opportunities and resources, girls’ sports will come into more prominence, and maybe one day we will see the bleachers populated with male student athletes rooting for their female counterparts.

As we work toward this goal and honor the 27th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, please contact your legislators and ask them to co-sponsor the High School Athletics Accountability Act to help increase transparency and strengthen gender equality in high school athletics.

This blog post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Sarah Lazarus.

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This week, so-called National School Choice Week, many pro-voucher groups are trying to argue that vouchers are good for our schools. This “school choice” language promises parents improved results while failing to mention the serious civil rights problems with vouchers. I have seen this firsthand in Michigan and know that we can have success fighting back against voucher schemes if we remain vigilant.

In September 2011, I testified before the Michigan Senate Education Committee in Lansing on a package of education reform bills. One of the bills, S. 621, would have weakened Michigan’s public schools by creating a private school voucher system. This would have diverted public funds to private and religious schools and away from the public schools that desperately need those resources. In my testimony, I told the committee why I opposed the voucher proposal.

I said that requiring financially stressed districts to bear the burden of educating private school students, taking desperately needed funds away from the public schools, would be bad public policy and would hurt students. School voucher programs also funnel taxpayer money to private schools that do not have to follow civil rights laws such as Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funding. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my tax dollars going to a school that doesn’t have to obey Title IX.

I had the honor of testifying alongside several education experts, whom I was then able to recruit for AAUW of Michigan’s efforts to educate people about this bad legislation. Although we were able to modify the proposed voucher legislation, there are still threats to Michigan’s public schools.

AAUW believes a strong, free public education system is the foundation of a democratic society, and we have long opposed diverting public funds to private or religious elementary and secondary schools. As long ago as 1937, the AAUW legislative program called for “free public instruction of high quality available to all, since popular education is the basis for freedom and justice” and in 1955 stated that “universal education is basic to the preservation of our form of government and to the well-being of our society.”

AAUW of Michigan is working with coalition partners all over the state to oppose these voucher proposals. The fight to protect our children’s right to a quality public education is far from over.

This post was written by AAUW of Michigan Public Policy Director Barbara Bonsignore.

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Where are the women engineers? Women make up only 13 percent of engineering professionals in the United States, and in 2009 less than 20 percent of college engineering students were women — a 15-year low. What’s keeping the numbers so low? And what can we do?

Girls disappear from science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) early: By the end of high school, girls who have previously shown ability in science and math are opting out of STEM courses. It’s not because they lack the skills. Boys and girls show the same aptitude in math and science on tests. It’s because of stereotypes that girls just aren’t good at math and science or that fields like engineering are “unfeminine.” And because engineering usually isn’t taught until college, girls have to reject these stereotypes and seek out engineering opportunities all on their own. Having women role models can show girls that engineering can be a viable career choice for them.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, a part of National Engineers Week, is our chance to start changing the statistics. Here are just a few ways AAUW members can celebrate Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day in their communities on February 21 and unlock the potential of future women engineers.

1. Encourage educators to participate in AAUW’s lesson plan contest.

How can we bring engineering into the classroom before college and before girls lose interest? AAUW is looking for innovative lesson plans that get students excited about engineering by making it relevant to kids’ lives and interests. AAUW will give a $100 prize to one national winner. AAUW branches are also encouraged to sponsor a prize for a local winner.

2. Find a woman engineer to share her experiences with local girls.

Girls need role models who can break the mold and show them that engineers come from all backgrounds. Hearing from diverse and successful women engineers shows girls that engineering incorporates many different types of skills — not just solving equations or using computer programs but also employing creativity, innovation, and teamwork.

3. Partner with girls’ groups in your area.

Girls’ groups and organizations can provide great outlets to explore engineering careers in an encouraging environment free from bias. AAUW branches are encouraged to partner with local chapters of groups like the Girl Scouts, the Association for Women in Science, Girls Excelling in Math and Science, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and Girls Inc. to teach girls about their potential in STEM careers. For ideas, visit the National Engineers Week Foundation list of resources and AAUW’s own activities and resources page for girls.

This February, let’s work together to celebrate the “G” in “engineer.” Have more ideas about how to introduce girls to engineering or honor the achievements of women engineers? Let us know in the comments!

This post was written by AAUW STEM Program Associate Alexa Silverman.

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It’s mid-January, and the holiday season is over; children are readjusting to the new semester, and adults are back to work. The lights and trees have been taken down, and malls are back to their normal number of shoppers. As I reflect on this past holiday season, particularly the craze surrounding popular items that the children in our lives request, I am baffled.

Photo by David Shankbone, Flickr Creative CommonsEvery year the same issue arises during my holiday shopping: I stroll down the aisles in search of a doll I can purchase for my 9-year-old niece, and each year I am disappointed with the options. This year my question remained the same: Where is the diversity? To justify my feminist mentality and sometimes too-frequent overthinking of certain matters, I searched “Barbie” on Google. How surprised was I at the results? Not at all. Before my eyes was a page full of white dolls, the majority scantily clad with long legs, small waists, and perfect smiles.

I have always had these issues with doll companies that gross billions of dollars a year and stack toy store shelves for little girls across the globe. Maybe my aversion is a reaction to stories my grandmother has told me, reliving her childhood of sexism and racism. Maybe it’s because of the sense of pride I feel as I look in the mirror at my brown skin every morning. Maybe it’s because I refuse to allow my niece to be socialized to think that pretty girls are only those who are skinny with light skin; long, straight hair; and skimpy clothing — and that women are meant to be mothers and wives instead of engineers and politicians. Maybe it is because of the political, social, economic, and physical attacks that women all over the world survive every day. Maybe it’s because of the grotesque portrayal of women in movies, television, and the media as sexualized beings who deserve little to no respect. Or maybe it’s because the feminist in me would like, for once, to walk down the toy aisle and find a Mexican, Asian, or black baby doll with ease — or a doll whose abilities aren’t limited to being fashionable.

So as I stared at my niece’s Christmas list this year, I skipped over the request for a doll. I challenge all parents and gift-givers to be cautious and aware of what toys you purchase for your children. Are you encouraging your children to follow certain paths in their lives by buying the boys construction toys and the girls toys that reinforce their stereotypical roles as caregivers? Are little girls being socialized to strive for an unobtainable physical ideal represented through popular culture? The answer is yes! From television advertisements to technology to the toys children play with, ideals are being reinforced in our children’s minds. It is time to take a stance and teach children that diversity is beautiful. Each person is unique, and that is what’s normal.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Benita Robinson.

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