Girl scientist

As a kid, I was obsessed with books. While all the other kids used recess time to run around or cause trouble, I was always perched on a bench with one of my favorites -- Eric Carle, Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, you name it. But while I would've happily read anything that was written in the English language, I was particularly drawn to female authors (Judy Blume, Ann Brashares, J.K. Rowling, etc.) because I was able to envision myself growing up to be just like them. I was fortunate to have female role models who paved the way for future women writers, and that was a big factor in me later pursuing writing as a career.

The trouble comes when gender underrepresentation deters a girl from pursuing a dream in a male-dominated field. If all a girl sees and hears about are male doctors, scientists, and engineers, she might be inclined to put her efforts in other areas.

That's what the "Inspire Her Mind" campaign hopes to change. Launched yesterday by Verizon and MAKERS, the campaign is attempting to challenge gender stereotypes and encourage females to pursue jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) by starting an online dialogue.

According to the campaign, 66% of fourth grade girls say they like science and math, but women currently hold only 25% of STEM jobs in the United States. The initiative explains that the reason for this disparity could be gender stereotypes and an 18% decline in girls' confidence between middle and high school that can mean they're more likely to hold themselves back. Fortunately, by targeting career information to girls, interest increases; when shown what engineers do, 76% of girls became interested in engineering.

Kids can watch the MAKERS videos on the "Inspire Her Mind" webpage that profile top women from Google, NASA, Princeton University, and more. You can also get involved with your local Girls Who Code club and introduce children to games that make STEM subjects accessible.

I would love to see a world where girls (and boys!) have role models to follow whatever their dreams may be. It's just up to us to introduce them to the unlimited possibilities.

Image: Girl scientist via Shutterstock