Scientists and engineers work to solve challenges that concern our society and everyday life. Pollution and disease are problems that can strike anyone, anywhere, without discrimination. Our approach to designing products and providing solutions therefore must also be equal opportunity. That is why diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is so critical. Despite the fact that workers in science and engineering tend to have higher paid jobs and more work stability than workers in other fields, female participation in STEM is still under 30% of the total STEM workforce.
According to studies, the low representation of women in STEM is due to diverse sociocultural factors that deter girls from a young age. It is important to our society to be able to break this cycle, exposing girls to positive role models, support systems and instilling in them the importance of good math and science education. Non-formal education plays an important role in this issue. Programs outside the child's conventional environment help to inculcate positive attitudes towards science, especially in girls. Non-formal science activities provide opportunities for active learning, in a non-threatening environment, that allow girls to approach challenges of subjects that are perceived as male dominant.
Science, Technology and Engineering Preview Summer Camp for Girls (STEPS) was initiated at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and has been replicated in Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, and South Dakota as residential or day camps for girls. STEPS camps are tuition-free, and participants enjoy a full range of recreational, developmental, and technical experiences. The Society of Manufacturing Engineers Educational Foundation plans to extend the program to 11 states, reaching over 36,000 girls!