Girls in STEM: Closing the gender gap

The Million Girls Moonshot initiative will work with afterschool programs nationwide to increase diversity and equity in science, tech, engineering and math.
By: | September 23, 2020
The Million Girls Moonshot initiative aims to get more girls interested in STEM.The Million Girls Moonshot initiative aims to get more girls interested in STEM.

The goal: engage one million school-age girls in the U.S. in STEM learning opportunities over the next five years.

The program: Million Girls Moonshot initiative, which provides grant funding and in-kind resources to afterschool networks in all 50 states to increase access to hands-on, immersive STEM experiences.

The players: The initiative Intel Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, STEM Next Opportunity Fund and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation are launching the effort.

Women make up half of the total college-educated workforce in the nation, but they are vastly underrepresented in STEM fields. Economic projections point to the need for one million more STEM professionals than the country will produce at its current rate over the next decade. That makes engaging and keeping more girls in STEM pursuits a critically important piece of the solution to that problem.

The original moonshoot, Apollo 8 in 1968, united the nation behind a common goal and advanced scientific achievement greatly. With that idea, the Million Girls Moonshot aims to create a national movement to change the trajectory of women and girls in STEM.

The effort’s partners see more opportunity this year than ever before, as students are outside of the traditional classroom so much due to the pandemic. While Million Girls Moonshot is aimed at afterschool programs, which serve more than 10 million young people, such programs now include small group, in-person services on remote school days, virtual STEM activities, the distribution of STEM kits, and other innovative ways of reaching children.

Funding and programmatic partners include NASA, the National Girls Collaborative Project, Techbridge Girls, STEMconnector and other organizations.

“Every girl deserves access to high-quality education to achieve their dream career, regardless of their ZIP code or family’s socioeconomic status,” said Gabriela A. Gonzalez, deputy director, Intel Foundation, in a statement. “The powerful synergies from collaborating with other organizations who share these values achieve a larger collective social impact to advance gender equity and parity in STEM fields, and more important, elevate girls’ future prospects for a better quality of life. Equipping youth with emerging technology skills in Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, and Internet of Things is also critical for an inclusive and diverse future workforce.”

Grant funding is being awarded to afterschool networks in each state at varying levels, but schools can also host programs and educators can participate as mentors. School leaders can contact their state’s network for more information about getting involved.

Melissa Ezarik is senior managing editor of DA.

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