Newswise — To meet the White House's projected workforce needs of one-million additional inclusive graduates by 2022, the California State University (CSU) is developing outreach programs to strengthen the interest of K-12 girls to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines.

Women represent only 24 percent of the STEM workforce, despite making up half of the nation's college-educated workforce. A 2016 study published in the Psychological Bulletin, "Why Are Some STEM Fields More Gender Balanced Than Others? revealed that an overwhelmingly masculine environment conveys a stronger sense of belonging for males, therefore increasing the interest, participation and performance of boys.

The CSU is increasing its efforts of creating opportunities and environments for female students to pursue STEM fields. The following are examples of how some CSU campuses are meeting the goal.

Cal Poly Pomona's Femineer Program, was recognized by the White House in 2015 for inspiring and empowering K-12 female students to purse STEM in their education and future careers. Co-founder, STEM advocate and CSU Wang Family Excellence Award recipient Dr. Mariappan Jawaharlal, recently appeared on Charter Local Edition to promote the program's efforts.

"This program is empowering girls in a way that no other program does. In the first year, we teach them how to use tools starting with a hammer and screwdriver, taking them all the way to using multi-meters and learning soldering."

Girls create wearable technology and build robots using craft material. With the skills learned, students are able to power the robot using electronic programming. Dr. Jawaharlal says the program is debunking the myth that girls cannot be engineers.

"The only way you can help them overcome these stereotypes is by giving them real hands-on experience and real skills."

The Femineer Program is a cohort to the Femineer Summit, a nationwide event held at Cal Poly Pomona. The summit gives students a place to showcase their robotics and an opportunity to meet female STEM professionals and to explore career options. 

CSULB's College of Engineering in partnership with the Society of Women Engineers is addressing the lack of female representation in STEM fields with the Future Girls at the Beach Mentoring Program. This outreach program collaborates with local middle schools and high schools and is designed to engage and build girls confidence in STEM fields. Students receive mentoring from female engineering students, faculty and local professionals through various activities and events.

The upcoming 'Competition Day,' encourages mentees to test out their STEM skills against mentors. Activities include building circuits to power the fastest car, using a balloon to airpower vehicles and learning polymers through playdough.

CSULB researchers will study the effects of the program, using qualitative data to obtain a rich narrative analysis. This study will reveal if the female mentorship influenced the mentees' decisions to pursue an education in STEM. Results will also reveal the impact of female role models, which activities were the most influential in helping mentees pursue engineering majors and common questions asked by mentees.

These findings will help K-12 outreach professionals at CSU educators design outreach programs that will help to influence young girls educational and career choices. The study is scheduled for publication summer 2017.

The CSU is committed to supporting and strengthening science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and contributing to the national effort of producing more college graduates. Learn more on how the CSU is reaching its goal with Graduation Initiative 2025