Reducing the Gender STEM Gap One Challenge at a Time

Technovation is a global tech education nonprofit that empowers girls to challenge themselves and reach their full potential by learning and applying the skills necessary to solve real-world pressing problems with the help of modern technology. It organizes and encourages participation in an international software competition that helps find solutions to problems linked to the United Nations sustainable development goals, provides training and constructive feedback to participants, and gives impetus to high-quality, world-changing apps.
Why is this necessary on a global scale? According to the American Association of University Women’s website, “women make up only 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and men vastly outnumber women majoring in most STEM fields in college. The gender gaps are particularly high in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, like computer science and engineering.” Therefore, there is a compelling need for narrowing the gender STEM gaps through large-scale educational programs that provide girls with the skills, the resources, the training, the support, and, ultimately, the confidence needed to thrive in STEM careers. Technovation is an inspiring example of a STEM outreach program done right.
Fortunately enough, there has been a Technovation Girls chapter in Mexico since 2013. This year, 345 girls and young women from 15 Mexican states participated in the challenge developing 124 STEM projects and, now, 14 teams are headed to compete in the national finals on June 24-26. One of those winning teams is called “Athena, Mx” and consists of four brilliant young girls (Regina Valle, Andrea Huerta, Mauricia Peña and Niobe Peña) from the Peterson Schools who developed a mobile application named “Nutrini”. This project aims to reduce obesity and malnutrition in Mexico through easily-accessible, tasty and nutritious meal recipes classified by age. Those recipes are backed by professional nutrition experts and include nutritional information, simple ingredients and instructions, servings, pictures and preparation time. It also provides the user with their own balanced meal plan and a grocery list to make sure they buy and have all ingredients close at hand.
Nutrini app
Athena, Mx was able to build this one-of-a-kind application with the help of Dulce Osorio, a wonderful Peterson MS/HS teacher we had the opportunity to interview a few weeks back. As a volunteer mentor, she was in charge of training, guiding and supporting the girls throughout the whole year, bringing the best out of themselves and helping them realize the whole of their potential. It is amazing to see how strongly she believes in the project, how much she loves being a mentor, and how proudly she talks about the girls. However, Dulce explains it is alarming and heartbreaking to see a significant number of girls not interested in participating or even dropping out from the competition because they feel they do not have what it takes to build a mobile application and a business model. Thus, they get overwhelmed by the amount of work they are required to do and they prefer not to get involved in the program.
This common reaction to life-changing challenges is only natural considering the pervasive myth that STEM fields are masculine, and that boys are more capable than girls to succeed in math and science. Therefore, as part of the Peterson Community, we have the social responsibility to raise awareness that girls and women are as capable as boys to thrive in any field, when given enough encouragement and educational opportunities. It is also our duty to encourage girls as much as boys in STEM and support them with learning opportunities and positive messages about their abilities.
If a team of four Mexican girls had the strength, the will power, and the purposefulness to develop such a comprehensive mobile application within a year, who says you, your daughter, or any other girl from the Peterson Schools cannot reach their full potential to make the world a better place through technology? Every single one of us has a brain for anything we put our minds to, it all depends on the way we are taught and encouraged to embrace challenges in our lives. Therefore, if we combine positive growth messages with creative approaches to teaching, learning, and thinking about math and science, perhaps an increasing number of girls might get out of their comfort zone and start to realize they have all what it takes within themselves to change the world one problem at a time. Source: Technovation