Girls like science, math and coding as much as boys when they’re young.
Sometime around the fifth grade they lose interest, studies have shown.
“That’s a huge problem,” said Ayah Bdeir, founder and CEO at littleBits, that makes STEM-building kits for kids.”Tech professions are the ones that are making history and building tomorrow. These are the products that define how we travel, how we learn, how we consume news. Women are vastly underrepresented.”
LittleBits and Disney want to change that.
The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) company and media giant have partnered to fund a $4 million pilot program called “Snap the Gap” to grab girls when they lose interest in tech—usually around 10 years old.
The program is pairing 15,000 10-year-old girls with mentors, littleBits learning kits and access to members of the tech community.
The pilot program launched Tuesday at Magnolia Union Elementary School in Anaheim, Calif. University of California, Davis will recruit and manage many of the mentors through its Million Women Mentors program.
Disney wants a diverse workforce
Disney, who has had an existing partnership with littleBits, said the pilot program made sense, because it represents what the company already values.
“One of our core focuses in the work we do for today’s youth is providing the skills for the future they imagine,” said Jacob DiPietre, Disney spokesman.
Disney also has a vested interest in assuring its workforce is a diverse one.
Women are almost half of the workforce yet they hold only 25 percent of computer and math-related jobs, and just 15 percent of engineering jobs, according to the US Department of Commerce.
“Disney is a creative, inclusive environment,” DiPietre said. “We want to make sure that we are ensuring women have those same opportunities in technology. That’s part of our strategy.”
‘We need more women around the table’
Bdeir hopes that mentoring girls will show them that STEM can be fun and help them understand that it’s “not just engineering.” This can widen the concept of what careers in tech and sciences can be and where it can take them.
“The world is changing so quickly and tech is the underlying driver of the way we live,” she said. “We need more women around the table.”
The program will spread throughout California over the first year. Bdeir wants to add five states every year and reach every state by 2023.
Learn more: SnaptheGap.
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