Health and Fitness Tips

live a long, healthy life one step at a time

It’s no secret that STEM-fields, already sparsely-populated in the US, are also heavily male-dominated. While some may claim that girls have “natural proclivities” for other fields, prevailing research shows that children can be conditioned to learn between ages 0-6, setting them up to be lifelong learners.

Despite the fact that all children’s brains are particularly flexible, young girls are still more likely to say they don’t “feel” like they’re as good at science-related subjects from an early age. Gender stereotyping in school and at home reinforces these beliefs, which discourages many girls from taking an interest in STEM fields.

In a society that already produces relatively few scientists and engineers (the US ranking 38th out of the 40 top countries for graduating science majors) only 15 percent of those graduates are women. STEM-related jobs only make up 5% of the workforce but contribute to over half of all the nation’s economic growth, meaning that many women self-select out of one of the most profitable fields before they reach puberty.

Low levels of science literacy in girls isn’t just an economic issue: it’s a public health concern as well. High-income, college educated, white women tend to live longer than men, but low-income women have disproportionately high mortality rates, particularly if they are women of color. In fact, the United States has the highest maternal death rate in the developed world. Ensuring that women learn about their own physical health is not just important–it’s critical.

Families can foster an interest in science early by having a nonfiction book area. Allowing girls to see a womens anatomy chart or a cervix effacement chart is a great way to start a conversation about reproduction. Using what is available to you, such as a meal portion plate or partially drunk glasses, can be a way to explain percentages and fractions. Having materials available for non-Native English speakers is a great way to start early reading, even if it’s something as simple as a list of the body’s muscles in Spanish.

Not every family will have access to a drug identification guide or a cervix effacement chart, but they can still foster curiosity and a love of learning from the beginning. Being a role model and demonstrating how you can take an interest in the natural world and in your own body can lay the groundwork for your own daughter.