It is a well-known (and much lamented) truth that women are under-represented in STEM careers. This is a problem as a) women comprise the majority of people earning college degrees these days and b) these professions are expected to grow rapidly in the years to come. If women are over-represented among students, but under-represented in STEM fields, we will face a major talent shortage in the near future.
So what to do about it? PBS (with sponsorship from the NSF and ExxonMobil) is now airing a series called SciGirls as one approach. The show features real girls, age 8-12, doing real world, hands-on scientific inquiry. They think of a problem. With the help of mentors, they figure out an experimental approach, and the audience gets to watch their adventures.
I'm looking forward to taping and watching the show. If any Gifted Exchange readers have seen it, please let me know your thoughts. The New York Times ran a a review the other day pointing out that the girls in the show were awesome (but the animated characters were, most definitely, not). I am not sure how much of the gender gap in STEM fields is due to a lack of tween interest. We've been seeing shows touting science and math for years, and you still hear people say, with no shame, that they are "not math people." But it never hurts to show kids doing science that doesn't involve burying your nose in a text book.