Last October, American astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch made history when they left the International Space Station (ISS) to perform a spacewalk. It was the first time a spacewalk has been conducted by two women. Last Wednesday, the pair stepped outside the space station again for the first of their two scheduled January spacewalks. (Follow along in the embedded livestream here). Meir and Koch are replacing nickel-hydrogen batteries with “newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries” as they upgrade the power systems on the ISS Port-6 truss structure.
Both of these remarkable women have a strong background in STEM-related areas of study, coming up through the ranks when there were even fewer opportunities for women to find careers in science and engineering.
Koch is an engineer with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and physics and a master’s degree in electrical engineering, both from North Carolina State University. Meir is a physiologist with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Brown University, a master’s degree in space studies from the International Space University, and a doctorate in marine biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Women represent a mere 26% of the STEM workforce, so when women like Koch and Meir make history, it’s a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the doors STEM education will open.
Technology is constantly evolving and it’s impossible to anticipate what innovations and inventions will drive our culture in the next five or ten years. An education in STEM will help prepare your daughters for possible opportunities and put her in a position to work in a career she’s passionate about while earning a higher than average salary. Employment in STEM occupations is expected to increase much faster than the overall growth rate for occupations in other fields.
If your daughter is interested in STEM, encourage her questions. When you think about it, research and innovation begin with scientists and engineers asking questions and then looking for solutions. Choose toys that help develop STEM skills and encourage your kids to explore and be curious about the way the world around them works. Creative, imaginative play is highly effective as a teaching tool and can help build confidence in STEM fields from an early age.
It’s important to encourage your child to pursue STEM opportunities while they’re still in elementary and middle school. Laying that foundation means that once they reach high school she’ll feel confident choosing STEM-related classes and start refining her career choices.
One of the most effective ways to encourage girls to pursue a career in STEM is to connect them with a mentor, specifically a woman who has succeeded in a science, technology, engineering, or math career. Have a role model not only open their eyes to who can do STEM, but it also expands their vision of possibilities in their future.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.