STEM: Not just a hobby for girls. It's a civil right. | Equal Rights Advocates
Fighting for Women's Equality

STEM: Not just a hobby for girls. It’s a civil right.

July 28, 2017 | by

In 2013, just 18% of college computer science majors were women. But girls become disinterested in STEM long before college graduation: it happens throughout high school. 

To ensure girls have equal access to and opportunities in STEM programs (as required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972), ERA is engaged in collaborative work with schools and school districts. Over the past year, we have worked with the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District in Sonoma County to build a culture of gender equity at their Technology High, the district’s prestigious science, technology, engineering, and math (“STEM”) education program, where more than two-thirds of the student body is male. ERA got involved after being contacted by the family of a student who experienced gender-based harassment on the school’s robotics team. Even though she was constantly put down by boys, she became the first female team leader in the history of Technology High’s robotics program and led her team to place third in the prestigious competition.   

In the course of representing this student, we reached out to district leadership about the systemic issues of gender inequity that this student’s experience illustrated, including the lopsided gender ratio among students. We are happy to report that the district accepted our invitation to work collaboratively with us on multiple fronts to build a culture of gender equity. The efforts and commitments made to date include analyzing application and admissions data and reviewing selection procedures, exploring new recruitment and outreach strategies, clarifying the district’s sexual harassment and nondiscrimination policies and improving their dissemination. 

In May, we proudly presented a comprehensive Gender Equity Recruitment Plan to the school district that can serve as a model for technology high schools across the Bay Area and country. As a result of this work and research, Technology High has already reformed the process by which robotics team leaders are selected to be gender-equitable, prioritized school climate issues, and committed to providing implicit bias training to its teachers.

We look forward to continuing our work with the school and supporting young feminists like our client, who are fighting to ensure schools are places all girls can thrive.

Building gender equity in K-12 schools is an integral part of our Strong Girls Initiative. Learn more about the initiative’s work at https://www.equalrights.org/our-work/strong_girls/.

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