What parents can do to inspire their daughters (and sons) to pursue their interests in math and scie

Unsurprisingly the early lack of girls’ interest in math and science related subjects is translating – in the long term - to a deficit of women in STEM-related jobs, even though they make up more than half of the entire US population. On its own, this stat is already alarming. When pictured from the perspective of the current job market, it is even more unsettling.

In the job market, careers related to STEM subjects are on the average better paying and more likely to lead to an influential placement than those in the arts and humanities ecosphere. Computer scientists, for instance, receive a yearly remuneration of about $70,000 on the average. Social workers, kinesiologist, and human resource personnel on the other hand typically max out at $50,000.

Girls are getting the shorter end of the stick, and it is a direct consequence of their lack of skills in STEM-related fields.

Fostering holistic equality

If the societal drive for equality is ever to gain full traction, it has to be approached from a holistic perspective that incorporates the collective action of all relevant stakeholders – this is where parents come into the picture. Parents by virtue of their overreaching influence can and should encourage their wards (boys inclusive) to acquire skill sets in STEM-related disciplines; not just because they attract better pay packages, but also for the fact that it sets-up girls to break 21st-century societal workplace stereotypes - ergo fostering equality.

It is this competitive advantage parent should be looking to equip their girls with. If you’re a parent wondering just how you can kindle the flames of math and other science subjects in your child, here are our top recommendations;

  • Find good role models and mentors

For most pre-teen and teenagers, role models are a reference point; they are who they look up to and in most cases who they would rather be in the future. Providing a role model and/or mentor is an excellent way of deepening your child’s interest in STEM-related fields, as well as opening up opportunities for entry and ongoing success.

  • Cultivate the winning habit: Practice!

Watch out for the ‘I’m not a math person’ or ‘I’m not good in math’ statements. Math is simply not a skill we are born with. There is no math gene. According to research at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, if you want to be good at math, you have to practice all different kinds of mathematics.

  • Connect math and other STEM subjects to something relatable

Often kids lose interest in STEM subjects like math because they cannot relate its many vague concepts to the real world. Art and humanities, on the other hand, provide a narrative that kids can connect with at the early stages of their lives. Why master the Pythagorean Theorem when there’s an intriguing life lesson to be learned in the story of Romeo and Juliet. Relating the topics in STEM subjects to areas that naturally appeal to kids goes a long way in sustaining their interest in the field. Help your daughter understand that a math background gives her the ability to move in all types of career directions. And who knows? She might become the next Marie Curie or Rosalind Franklin.

  • Parents, you don’t need to be a Nobel prize winner in physics to preach the STEM mantra

You might not be proficient in math but that doesn’t mean you cannot encourage your child to gain proficiency in STEM subjects. All that’s needed from you is to provide support and positive reinforcement. And speaking of positive environments, there’s no harm in hiring a math tutor to help your child succeed in math. Provided they’ve already shown some interest beforehand, this is one move that’s sure to reap good dividends.

Not everyone is destined to be the next Ada Lovelace. Some kids demonstrate likeness for other fields of learning from the onset. As a parent, you should respect this and encourage them to pursue their interests. However, love for other disciplines is not an excuse to entirely ditch math and other STEM subjects. Given the ubiquity of STEM-related concepts in daily life, it’s vital that students, girls and boys, acquaint themselves with the math essentials – they’ll be needing it when they start doing their taxes!

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