Societal Issues

Review the Theory and Evidence about Media, Peers, Role Models and Mentoring, and Collaboration


Recommendations and Strategies

  • Provide positive nontraditional role models through established media:TV programs can have a fairly strong and immediate impact on the impressions that young people form of occupations. The following are models that might affect this impact:
    • Provide an award for the best TV production presenting images of women in STEM.
    • Work with scriptwriters and producers to consider how plot lines concerning jobs in the STEM sector might be introduced into TV “soaps.”
  • Encourage critical thinking about the way the media portray CTE and nontraditional careers: Nurses should critically evaluate the portrayal of nurses in the media.
  • Emphasize the role of education: Curricula need to include overt attention to gender norms, patterns, and outcomes to make sure that students understand and can evaluate the gendered expectations found in all sources: academic, social, and cultural.
  • Provide programs that build positive body image: A large survey of young men and women found that programs that aim at building self-esteem and positive body image, as well as those that assist young women in discovering career and educational options and explore confidence and leadership, were very popular among those surveyed.

[pullquote align=”right”]The constant and often gender stereotypical exposure of electronic media solidifies gender stereotyping.

National media portrayal of individuals performing the job duties of a nontraditional career in a positive light increases participation of the NT gender in that career.[/pullquote]

Effective Practices and Resources

  • The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media works with entertainment creators and companies, educates the next generation of content-creators, and informs the public about the need to increase the number of girls and women in media aimed at kids and to reduce stereotyping of both males and females.
  • Media Literacy Training for Middle School Students assists younger women in thinking critically about media images.
  • Dr. Jocelyn Steinke, University of Western Michigan, Jocelyn Steinke’s research focuses on images of science and scientists in the mass media. Her most recent research explores the influence of media images of women scientists and engineers on adolescent girls’ conceptions of gender roles and their occupational aspirations.
  • Gender and the Media describes the latest research on media portrayals of girls and women.  Other articles in this PTA magazine December/January 2009/2010 include Gender Bias is Alive and Well and Affecting our Children by Karen Zittleman, PhD, and David Sadker, PhD, and Cracking the Boy Code by William S. Pollack, PhD.
  • Killing us Softly video presentation continues to explore the detrimental effect that overly sexualized images have on both genders.
  • Girl Scouts of the USA has launched a new public service announcement called “Watch What You Watch,” encouraging girls to seek out media with positive portrayals of women and girls.
  • Spotlight on Engineering is a newsletter produced by Engineers Dedicated to a New Tomorrow that highlights engineering projects/engineered products that have high positive impacts on society.
  • Picture This: Engineering is a  resource guide for the creative Community to accurately portray STEM in today’s media.

[divider top=”0″]Peers

Recommendations and Strategies

  • Involve men in IT intervention efforts for women: A study of The Ohio State University found that successful IT women cited “male friends and colleagues as being powerful influences in their career decisions.”
  • Involve like-minded peers in programs: A longitudinal study of urban, low-income students in a year-long, high school, informal science program revealed that their career and educational decisions were influenced by the interaction with staff, skill acquisition, and socialization with like-minded peers.
  • Facilitate informal support groups: Women need continued support and encouragement to stay in the science and engineering pipeline. Support groups may be “helpful in addressing the problems of young women” enrolled in courses leading to nontraditional careers.

[pullquote align=”right”]The opinions of peers, especially during adolescence, can influence nontraditional career choice.[/pullquote]

Effective Practices and Resources

  • Operation SMART, the most popular and widely implemented program of Girls Inc., has reached over 500,000 girls across the country. It boosts girls’ interest in studying science and math and opens their eyes to the existence and importance of these subjects in all aspects of their lives.
  • The Expanding Your Horizons in Science and Mathematics conferences nurture girls’ interest in science and math courses to encourage them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
  • Girl Scouts introduces girls of every age to STEM activities that are relevant to everyday life. Whether they’re discovering how a car’s engine runs, becoming math whizzes, or learning about careers in STEM fields, girls are moving forward into the future. They can host science fairs, design Web sites, plan for space exploration, visit geological sites, and more.
  • Search the top engineering degrees online with over 40 different types of engineering degrees and careers at 40 Different Types of Engineering Degrees.

[divider top=”0″]Role Models and Mentoring

Recommendations and Strategies

  • Ensure positive role models: Universities can be a resource for elementary and secondary schools to ensure that a positive image of women in STEM is established early on.
  • Showcase role models with good work/life balance: Provide young women with opportunities to interact with role models who blend STEM careers and family.
  • Provide training and support for mentors and mentees: “Training has been recognized as instrumental for the success of mentoring projects”.
  • Choose the mentoring format that fits the educational setting: Applications of mentoring range from e-mentoring to one-to-one pairs to supported groups.
  • Provide positive, attainable role models: This methodology has been shown to be effective for college students, but little research has been done for pre-college students. When role models are used, it is recommended that information about mentoring also be offered. Parents are also encouraged to seek opportunities for girls to have positive contact with women working in the fields of math and science.
  • Conduct nontraditional student support groups and peer counseling: A group of studies identified the following retention strategies as effective: access to nontraditional student clubs and team support systems, and participation in math clubs, competitions, and after-school programs.

[pullquote align=”right”]A mentoring relationship with an NT role model, especially one who blends career and non-career activities well, is a significant factor in a student’s decision to pursue a nontraditional career.

Collaboration between educational entities and community-based organizations or business impacts the pipeline for nontraditional careers.[/pullquote]

Effective Practices and Resources

  • Doing What Works is a website from the USDOE that contains information on using female role models to encourage girls in STEM.
  • The Intergenerational Mentoring for Science Faculty Project, as described in AAUW Educational Foundation’s Under the Microscope, provided a short course, a faculty institute, a freshman seminar, scholarships, and intergenerational mentoring to interest more women from rural and tribal areas in science. It also provided small grants to faculty or secondary teachers for course and project development. Evaluations revealed that the project had a positive impact on course design and perceptions and resulted in higher retention rates for females.
  • The University of Chicago at Illinois’ Girls E-Mentoring in Science, Engineering and Technology GEM-SET program encourages girls to pursue STEM careers.
  • The Seattle Public School System’s IGNITE provides presentations at schools, field trips to local companies, job shadowing, conferences, and many other events to connect high-tech women mentors with young women. In addition, IGNITE provides students with information on scholarships, internships, and community resources to help them succeed in the fields of engineering and technology.
  • Engineer Girl’s Gallery of Women Engineers has bios on women in the engineering field that provide great role models for girls.
  • MentorNet is the award-winning, nonprofit, e-mentoring network that positively affects the retention and success of those in engineering, science, and mathematics, particularly but not exclusively women and others underrepresented in these fields.
  • Men Teach is a nonprofit clearinghouse for anyone seeking information about men in teaching.
  • Engineer Your Life is an online recruitment tool that utilizes real-life role models.
  • Girls’ E-Mentoring: Girls’ E-Mentoring in science, engineering & technology program, sponsored by the Center for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Illinois in Chicago, Women’s Bureau-Department of Labor, and Illinois Office of Educational Services. This is the home page for GEM-SET.
  • College of DuPage Non-traditional Career Mentoring Program links nontraditional employees and nontraditional students.
  • Cause and Effect: How the Media You Consume Can Change Your Life, a video by Love Social and Miss Representation highlights how media impacts girls’ self-image and thoughts about leadership.
  • The goal of US2020 City Competition, sponsored by Cisco, is to generate a groundswell of interest from STEM professionals to volunteer as student mentors and then match them with various classroom, after school and community programs.
  • Million Women Mentors is an engagement campaign and national call to action that mobilizes corporations, government entities, nonprofit and higher education groups, around the imperative of mentoring girls and young women in STEM fields.