Hi @taorminalepore, thanks for creating this new forum topic – I think there are a lot of people interested in contributing to this conversation!
To all interested in learning about increasing visibility for K-12 students, especially in terms of role models and mentorship, a recent thread on the Women in Paleo: Spotlights topic ventured into these ideas. @egardner posted a link to an article entitled “Greater equality in science will take more than Ada Lovelace Day” published recently on NewScientist.com. Eleanor went on to say:
The general gist of the article is that, to get and retain women in STEM, there has to be more than figurehead examples — more than just seeing a female scientist at events and such. According to the article, a study conducted by faculty at Florida International University found that “having a woman physics teacher, reading about women in physics, and having a female guest speaker had no effect on [high school girls’] intention to enter the field.” (I found that quite surprising, frankly!)
I agree with her statement! I believe strongly in the importance of visibility and providing role models to students (and otherwise!). I think it is important to note that the article does not say that role models are of no use – it is trying to say that role models alone will not solve the problem of the STEM gender gap.
I was reading a paper recently published by the Center for Research on Girls, titled Engaging Girls in STEM: Role Models. The paper emphasized the importance of, but also the difference between role models and mentors. Role models, the paper posits, are “lighthouses” which provide a steady point of reference, but are somewhat removed. Mentors, on the other hand, are actively engaged and connected to students, offering one on one guidance. So, perhaps one of the issues here is that while visibility is certainly important, its not enough to just hoist up images of women scientists, it is more crucial to create engagement and guidance between women scientists and young women.
I linked the article above, and have also attached it as a pdf file. It’s short, sweet, and has some extra resources.