Encouraging young women to take part in the sciences has been an important activity for the US in the past few years. With evolving perspectives on women’s issues and damning statistics that claim that women make up only 14% of the physicist population and 24% of STEM jobs, groups and organizations within the country have been trying to get to the root of the issue of why women aren’t involved in these areas of work.
Green Girls, a program run by the City Parks Foundation, started off in 2002 with the goal of encouraging women to pursue the sciences. At first, it was a three week program with a few girls. Now, it lasts five weeks and it runs throughout the year.
Mashable reports that the most important thing that Green Girls does is to give confidence to young girls, allowing them to work in the field. Different studies suggest that a big part of why girls aren’t involved in the sciences is the fact that, from a young age, they see math as too complicated, with everything in their lives reinforcing this and making them quit. Administrators of the program are well aware of this gender bias, so they focus on creating a safe space where girls have role models and are given the opportunity to learn, grow, and make mistakes.
“Female students and students of color have gotten messages in different ways that, when it comes to science, they should step back and shouldn’t put themselves out there,” says Chrissy Word, Green Girls Director of Education.
Classes are taken outdoors where girls are free to get their hands dirty by interacting with trees and bugs, making the whole experience feel like summer camp. “You may think it’s boring to learn about the environment, but you’re probably not learning about the details,” says 12 year-old Mritika Rahman.
While it’s true that women in the sciences have to deal with a lot of sexism and racism – more so than women in other areas of work – programs such as Green Girls suggest that things can change, and that maybe there’s a chance for equal opportunities in the future.