Stemmed In Equality

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All-girls computing team Charlie competes in the U.S. cyber patriot challenge on Nov. 17. “Basically, this competition is about securing the computer to prevent hackers from breaking in,” junior Rebecca Huang said. Charlie is one of the two all girls teams that composes the Allen cyber patriot.

Alessio Haro and Abi Marines

With 2020 being around the corner, society faces a multitude of complex global issues and realities. Environmental issues such as climate change and water contamination continue to persist, and the rapid development of technology including artificial intelligence and cyber security call for more attention than ever. With the new realities of today being so much more different than as little as 30 years ago, it’s essential that future generations become well-equipped to take on these issues.

 

The field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is fostered to equip the next generation with the proper knowledge and education to take on the realities and issues of today. Allen High School is doing its own part to support the advancement of this specialized education, with the addition of the STEAM center. The school embodies the movement to face the issues of the 21st century with the proper education and resources needed.

 

STEM education isn’t the answer to every problem however. The world still faces a number of humanitarian issues, one of the biggest being gender equality. Women are underrepresented in almost every career, ranging from the field of culinary to computer programing to politicians. As STEM emerges as one of the most important fields of education, it’s crucial that women have an equal opportunity to be leaders. Currently, only 28% of women are in the STEM field, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP), an organization dedicated to ensuring the representation of women in this field. 

 

With the multitude of opportunities offered at Allen, STEM is taking off. Courses such as architecture and computer science display that in the past few years there has been a dramatic increase in the importance of educating the students in these fields.The high school has several clubs and activities dedicated to women in STEM, such as the computer science club.

 

“The computer science club is like an umbrella club,” computer science teacher David Ben-Yaakov said. “Under that umbrella are different categories in computer science. It can be for those interested in programming, or interested in competitive competitions dealing with [computer science]. There is also the U.S. CyberPatriot.”

 

Although not being a club itself, the CyberPatriot is one of the most unique groups at Allen. The group only started this year and already has two all-girls team who meet weekly, compete at a national level and share a passion for cybersecurity. 

 

“Cybersecurity is important because the online world is getting more prominent, and as it expands, there’s an increased risk in losing personal information from hackers,” junior Rebecca Huang said. “Although the club is a huge commitment, it’s important that girls join. The STEM field needs more representation from girls.”

 

Despite only being started this year, the five Allen CyberPatriot teams have made considerable achievements. Additionally, the clubs give everyone an equal opportunity, males and females alike. 

 

“There are five teams,” said Ben-Yaakov. “Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Echo and Delta. [Charlie and Echo] are the all girls teams and the rest are either all male or mixed. Bravo is rated number one in Texas, and number six nationally.” 

 

In addition to CyberPatriot, Girls who Code is another club hosted at Allen with the goal of educating young women in the STEM field. Girls who Code is an international, non-profit organization with over 185,000 members and achieves to reach 10,000 clubs across the country. Unlike cyber patriot, the sole focus is on educating girls in STEM, hence the name. 

 

Although the statistics of the time being can be often alarming with such a low rate of girls in the STEM fields, schools such as Allen are working to ensure that those numbers rise. Through the promotion of clubs such as Girls who Code as well as the computer science club which has opportunities for both genders, it’s evident that the future generations will be properly educated to take on the issues of today and beyond. 

 

Additionally, a study by the National Center of Education Statistics observed that the number of women who graduated with STEM degrees has increased nearly 43% from 2009 to 2016. Numbers such as these testify that the effort to include girls in STEM is on the right track.

 

“I think it’s really important for girls to be in STEM because there aren’t enough good role models and some fields don’t have very good representation,” sophomore Maahika Saini said. “Next year I plan on taking IB Biology.” As someone very invested in the STEM field herself, Saini has already applied for the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science.

 

While there has been a stretch of progress and opportunity, society today is responsible for taking action for women in STEM to keep this number rising. Negative stereotypes and lack of encouragement from educators and peers are all factors that can be easily avoided to ensure a greater sense of equality in the field of STEM. 

 

“Girls in STEM show that women are no less than a man and they are as qualified as anyone else,” sophomore and robotics member Aida Figueiras Bartoli said. “It’s beneficial to have women [in the STEM field] because they have a different perspective than men.”

 

Computer science isn’t the only field where girls have had more representation either. Robotics member junior Anika Asher co-founded GALs, a separate robotics club with the purpose to educate girls in the STEM field.

 

“To give some context, of the STEM endorsement at Allen High School, 2 percent are girls,” said Asher. “That gives background of the magnitude of how few girls are specially at Allen. Me and My friends started GALs to get girls into STEM at a young age.”

 

The GALs robotics club has also contributed a great deal in promoting the STEM field to other all girls groups. One such group was the Girl Scouts of America. 

 

“We had a talk with them and said that ‘STEM is everywhere,’” Asher said. “‘See this house? Engineers built it. Does your mom wear makeup? Engineers built that too. Do you paint your nails? Engineers made nail polish.’ We want to show them that STEM is all around them. And it’s not something that just boys do.”

 

Education is for everyone. And as society develops faster than ever before, it’s crucial that there is an equal perspective and representation of men and women. With the field of STEM being of one the most promoted fields of the time, it’s important that there is an effort to bring the minority of women in the light in this field. Although there is still a long way to go to bring an equal representation in everyone in STEM, the great efforts by schools, organizations and individuals show that the push for equality is headed in the right direction.