Launching Snap the Gap™ — the ambitious program to close the gender gap in STEM
 

Or in other words, how we dust ourselves off and try again

Today is equal pay day, and another reminder that some of the highest paying jobs becoming available are more likely to be filled by men and that the gender gap in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) is alive and well.

Last month, I was involved in a heated online conversation around this topic after a 60 Minutes episode about how to get women into STEM cut myself and other leading women’s organizations working on the issue in favor of a male spokesperson. You can read my thoughts on this here: “An Insider’s Look at Why Women End Up on the Cutting Room Floor”.

The timing was particularly egregious because my team and I had been working for close to a year on an initiative to address specifically a nuance the episode missed: the solution to the gender gap is not as simple as « get girls to code in kindergarten ».

But it’s OK

As women often do, we dust ourselves off and try again. Because our goals are big and important, and our girls don’t care whose responsibility it is to redress the power dynamics at play, they just need it done. 

So here goes!

Today I am happy to announce Snap the Gap. An action-focused non-profit program to close the gender gap in STEM starting with the point of highest leverage: 10-year-old girls.

But here is the key thing, we are tackling this problem with three proven components beyond just exposure: Hands on learningA peer communityand A mentorship program.

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For illustrative purposes, one of the many studies visualizing girls’ interest and participation in STEM over time.  Source

For illustrative purposes, one of the many studies visualizing girls’ interest and participation in STEM over time. Source

We are not doing this to generate buzz, to raise awareness on the problem, or for-profit: this is a mission. We are going in, full force and committing to see change. 

How will we close the gender-gap? The pilot

Today Snap the Gap™ kicks off with a year-one pilot valued at $4 million, for 15,000 girls in California. The goal of the pilot is to test, measure, tweak, iterate, and then go nationwide so we can reach every 10-year-old in the country. 

The pilot is generously funded by Disney, who has a huge commitment to STEM and to inspire children, especially girls, to embrace and explore the power and possibilities of the field. 

UC Davis, which leads California Million Women Mentors, will help recruit participants and mentors, and it will measure the impact of the program.

In this program, every participating girl will receive: 

  • Hands-on Learning: Girls who participate in hands on learning activities are 40 percent more likely to know the jobs that are possible through STEM. Participating girls will receive a uniquely branded littleBits kit encouraging them to learn through physical play, turn their ideas into inventions, and solve problems they care about.

  • Immersion in a Safe Community of Inventors: Girls will be enrolled for one year into JAM.com, the largest paid subscription course platform for kids. This is a safe space for girls to feel as though they belong and meet like-minded peers with whom they can invent and share their work.

  • Mentorship: Girls who have mentors are 2.5 times more likely to be confident in their ability to succeed in school and careers. That’s why UC Davis and CA Million Women Mentors will pair girls with mentors and provide technical assistance to mentors and site coordinators to allow girls to experience a deeper level of engagement while growing a strong STEM identity.

Last week we kicked off the program with Magnolia School District in Annaheim, and in walking around, watching the girls and mentors interact, invent, share and ask questions, I was filled with energy, hope and excitement towards the future. 

I was reminded of why we do what we do: our goal is not for every 10-year-old girl to grow up to be a programmer or an engineer. Snap the Gap is about exposing young girls to the power of STEM in an environment full of creativity and free of stereotypes, so they can grow up to be confident change-makers. 

The first kickoff event with Magnolia School District: 55 girls, 30 mentors and a live invention and coaching session.

The first kickoff event with Magnolia School District: 55 girls, 30 mentors and a live invention and coaching session.

What you can do

If you are a girl-serving organization wanting to get involved, email us. If you work in computing, STEM, tech or related field and are interested in mentoring, get in touch. If you are a partner wanting to fund Snap the Gap in your state or nationwide, let us know

Getting more women into STEM is a big hairy problem: we have a lot of ground to cover and we will take all the help we can get. 

More information is available at SnapTheGap.org, and stay tuned for updates of the program as it unfolds. 

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By Ayah Bdeir