Classroom Best Practice  |  

Want to Close the STEM Gender Gap? Start in Kindergarten

Mar 6, 2018

Women make up only about a quarter of the workforce in the tech industry, and that number is predicted to shrink over the next decade. How do we reverse this trend? Research suggests that if girls can stick with computer science up to the AP level in high school, they are 10 times more likely to pursue the subject in college. The challenge is that many never develop the interest during the elementary years.

How can we inspire girls when they’re young to try out and stick with computer science? Could robotics be part of the answer?

panel discussion will address the STEM gender gap and other related challenges at SXSWedu® on Tuesday, March 7, 2018, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. at the Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon C. The panelists are: Vikas Gupta, co-founder & CEO of Wonder Workshop; Andrea Bastiani Archibald, chief girl and parent expert at Girl Scouts of America; Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code; and Cynthia Cooksey, librarian at Dr. Pablo Perez Elementary School in the McAllen Independent School District, Texas.

Wonder Workshop’s co-founder and CEO, Vikas Gupta, is passionate about this subject and wrote about it for Forbesmagazine last fall. Gupta is a father of two, and it was the time he spent with his daughter when she was first born that inspired him to start Wonder Workshop, to tackle the gender gap in STEM and make coding accessible and fun for boys and girls of all ages.

Andrea Bastiani Archibald, of Girl Scouts of America, speaks about the exclusive data generated by the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI), which publishes reports on different topics as they affect girl development and leadership. Some of those reports include “The Vote Is In: What Americans Say About the Importance of Girls’ Issues”; “The Resilience Factor: A Key to Leadership in African American and Hispanic Girls”; and the recent “State of Girls: Emerging Truths and Troubling Trends,” a synthesis of data from national agencies reflecting changes in the overall health and well-being of girls in the United States.

Kimberly Bryant is the founder and executive director of Black Girls CODE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “changing the face of technology” by introducing girls of color (ages 7–17) to the field of technology and computer science, with a concentration on entrepreneurial concepts. Black Girls CODE has reached over 3,000 students and continues to grow and thrive.

Cynthia Cooksy is the librarian at Dr. Pablo Perez Elementary in the McAllen Independent School District, and is this year’s Texas Librarian of the Year. She has been an active leader in the library community since becoming a librarian 14 years ago. She was named Teacher of the Year for her school and district the year she introduced coding to her school. She has coached teams who have competed and placed in the Wonder League Robotics Competition, and has taught teachers throughout her district how to use Wonder Workshop’s Dash and Dot robots to teach coding. Cooksy has found that once kids see how the robots make a seemingly abstract concept like coding feel tangible, they get it — just as her students do in the library day after day. Read more about her experience bringing coding and robotics to Texas schools in her article for The Hechinger Report.

The Association of Texas Professional Educators has teamed up with SXSW EDU to provide educators continuing education credits while attending sessions at SXSWEdu. This panel discussion is a qualifying event. SXSW EDU attendees will receive a code that they can use to log in to the ATPE Professional Learning Portal to receive the credit. You don’t have to be an ATPE member to use the ATPE system. You can log on as a guest to claim credit for your CPE hours. Whether SXSW EDU CPE hours are accepted outside the state of Texas varies by location. Some places accept hours from other states, and some don’t. Check with your school or district, and review your state’s requirements, to see what counts toward your CPE.

We look forward to hearing about the discussion and sharing new insights with you soon!