Sunday, March 10, 2019

Day 10: Girls in the Maker Movement

It's no surprise that a session called “Girls and the Maker Movement” at SxSwEDU would catch my attention.  Having spent more than 20 years engaging girls in activities that build their confidence with technology and written more than 100 blog posts on the topic on the TechSavvy Girls blog ( I’m always looking for kindred spirits who not only increasing awareness that the gender gap in tech continues, but more importantly offering specific strategies on how we can contribute to positive solutions in this space.

Allison Furton and Urvi Morrison did both in their SxSwEDU session - Girls and the Maker Movement.
Allison and Urvi started by leading us through building an interactive timeline that sparked conversations about the connections between economic trends, educational trends, of various time periods, as well as women from each timeline who contributed to the accomplishments of that time period.  They also shared some statistics on girls in tech, as well as 8 strategies that might help.

Here’s a quick look at some of the suggestions they offered.

Strategy #1: Spark Culturally responsive making, creating, and gaming

Often we set up maker activities that WE design, but what if you started by asking “What is a problem that you are facing day to day”.  This type of brainstorm can help you learn what’s important or of interest to your participants and allow you to plan maker activities around those interest.

You might be surprised at the types of problems women and girls want to solve.

Another strategy might be to find women and girls outside of your makerspace and pull them into your makerspaces to expand their knowledge of “what they are doing OUTSIDE” your makerspace.  Help them see the makerspace as a place where they can continue or expand their understanding of their interests areas.

Strategy #2: Provide encouragement

It’s easy to do overlook how powerful complementing young women on their ideas, perseverance, and problem solving skills.

Strategy #3: Use an inclusive definition of making

Does your makerspace acknowledge many different types of making? Are sewing machine, textiles, cooking and baking utensils visible? What may start as origami might lead to the buid of a big kayak that folds up.

Strategy #4: Include real life career connection

Does your makerspace have posters of women doing amazing things such as those found here:

How about including challenges from the Future Engineers website that show the connection between what they are doing in the makerspace and the workplace.

Strategy #5 Provide mentors and role models

Are there women in your community that could serve as mentors and role models.  Don’t overlook teachers at your own school.

Sending out a survey to find out the passions of other teachers in your school could lead to many possibilities that might just surprise you and your students.

Strategy #6 Encourage a Growth Mindset

Too many girls strive for perfection which creates a blind spot about the successes they achieve along the way.  Instead of praising girls for perfection or for their product, how about praising them for perservering. 
A great example of this can be found in  Reshma Saujani’s Ted Talk encouraging us to teach our girls to be brave is a great place to start.

Strategy 7: Involve family

Why not create family nights in your makerspace; 81% of girls who went into computer science were encouraged by a family member.

From my experience, many girls attribute encouragement from their dad as a major influence in their participation in STEM. 

Strategy 8: Provide mirrors and windows

It’s important for girls to to see themselves as confident and skilled with tech and its also important for girls to see others outside their space engaged in high tech activities.  If you don't have local role models that you can invite in to be part of a girls journey, consider using video conferencing tools to introduce girls to amazing role models.  

Even though most of the strategies outlined in this workshop were about engaging girls in STEM, they can all help increase the number of women and girls we see in our makerspaces. 

Each of these strategies can come into play when asking questions about WHO is engaged in your makerspace. 

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