Why STEM Matters for Girls: The Girl Scout Difference

Over the summer, Girl Scouts announced 30 new STEM badges for girls as well as new journeys. In November 2017, the organization pledged to raise $70 million to help bring 2.5 million girls into the STEM pipeline by 2025. While many viewed this news with enthusiasm, some still ask why it matters. Others argue not every girl wants to be in a STEM field and worry Girl Scouts is moving away from its roots in the outdoors. We’re here to help you understand.

What is STEM?

Before we continue, it’s important to identify exactly what STEM is. The acronym stands for science, technology, mathematics, and engineering, four subjects most girls in the United States will be exposed to, yet few will pursue.

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Why don’t more girls pursue STEM fields?

Think about the clothes you’ve seen in the kids section. The girls have frilly shirts covered with sparkles, claiming things like ‘when I grow up, I want to be a mermaid’ or ‘princess’ or ‘unicorn.’ Meanwhile boys clothes will say things like ‘astronaut.’

Realize it or not, girls are conditioned to think about more ‘feminine’ careers from a young age. This is encouraged through stereotypes and the underlying current of sexism that still plagues our society. One of our studies found that girls were less likely to raise their hand to answer a math question if boys were in the room, even when they knew the answer.

Since we started doing STEM programming, we’ve seen success in our Girl Scouts in a number of ways. One of the most startling is when a girl admits she thought boys were just better at STEM-related activities until she was engaged in them herself. If you want to read more about that and other revelations, check out the full report.

Basically, at some point it became assumed that STEM wasn’t for girls. We’re trying to change that perception.

It goes beyond the STEM pipeline

While we strive for equality in the workforce, both in job selection and salary, it isn’t our sole reason for encouraging STEM in our girls. Most people remember that Girl Scouts is about building girls of courage, confidence, and character, but they may not know the crucial second half: who make the world a better place.

We know there are things in this world that can be improved. Through our journeys and badges, we help girls learn about taking care of the planet and conservation. We encourage them to be away of their impact and what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint. Simply put, we were a girl-led green movement before it became popular.

We know it’s not for every girl

We’re continuing to add STEM badges in areas like cybersecurity, but it doesn’t mean we think every girl needs to become an engineer or scientist. We just believe every girl has the right to choose exactly what she wants to do, and we want to increase her chances of success by exposing her to different fields.

Maybe your Girl Scout wants to be a park ranger. Or a stay at home mom. Or an accountant. Or a veterinarian. Or maybe even a princess. We’re here to support her no matter what, so your girl can have courage, confidence, and character to make the world a better place in her own chosen way.

Giving Back: The Girl Scout Difference

As part of our Girl Scout Difference Campaign, we’re going to highlight different benefits each week. Our first focus comes from one of the ways we know Girl Scouts helps girls thrive:

  Identify and solve problems in the community. 

We’re so proud of the way we see our Girl Scouts giving back. Before ‘being green’ became a thing, Girl Scouts were working to take care of the environment. It’s a tradition we continue today.

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This dedication comes from one of our four pillars of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, Life Skills. We believe in teaching girls why it’s important to take care of their world.

Troops share stories with us about the work they’re doing in their communities. From planting flowers to cleaning up parks to making cards in nursing homes, our girls are constantly in action. Even our cookie program incorporates giving back.

On the purchasing end, you can order one to send to troops. For the troops, they can choose how they want to spend their cookie money, and many choose service projects. This year, one troop even funded an emergency medical flight for a child.

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Girl Scouts not only teaches the importance of giving back; it instills these values in our girls so this attitude is carried with them throughout the rest of their lives. Our prestigious Gold Award is focused around a project that identifies and helps correct a need.

In 2018, our Gold Award Girl Scouts did some amazing work. Projects involved creating curriculum to help teach other students, building long-need items in parks, and much more. One Gold Award Girl Scout even received international attention for her project that centered around sending feminine hygiene products.

It’s truly incredible what our Girl Scouts can do.