By Nour Salman ABU DHABI, 24th April, 2019 (WAM) -- The fight to bridge the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math, STEM, carries on, and two authors are playing their part in pioneering change.
Co-authors of the ‘Cece Loves Science' series, Kimberly Derting and Shelli R. Johannes, spoke to the Emirates News Agency, WAM, about the importance of engaging all children, especially girls, in the sciences.
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, less than 30 percent of the world's researchers are women. While a Microsoft study shows that most girls become interested in STEM in school at around the age of 11, but their interest starts to wane by the age of 15.
Derting said that the series wants to send a message to girls that science is accessible. Her co-author, Johannes agreed, adding that the culture of gender roles and binaries is changing, adding, "we want to show girls that it is ok to be fancy in pink, but also to be smart."
Commenting on the UAE's mission to encourage STEM education in curriculums, the two authors expressed their delight about the students they met so far during their visit.
"It seems that whatever is happening here, it is working," Derting said.
She noted that the co-authors had visited three or four schools and that children were so excited, not just about ‘Cece', but to share their science projects and science fairs.
A core message in ‘Cece Loves Science' is encouraging curiosity beyond the classroom. The main character, Cece, and her friend, Isaac, undergo a science adventure at home to complete a school project. Johannes said, "It's so important to encourage kids to think beyond the classroom, to go outside, play and have fun with science. To get messy and make mistakes."
She expressed her hope that the book inspires children to dabble in science and to read.
When asked how the character Cece can reach out to all girls and boys across the world, Derting said, "We wanted every child to see themselves in this book," and because Cece comes from a mixed-race family, she could be any kid.
Johannes added that they really want to promote diversity and inclusion, making sure that all kids encompassed within the overall message behind the book.
The co-authors told WAM that they were also expanding their character base to include children with disabilities. "We'd really love that everyone sees themselves in this series," Johannes affirmed.
Role models are essential to bridging the gender gap in STEM education and research. Girls need to be encouraged to go beyond stereotypes and explore, with encouragement from families, to realise a better future. Authors like Derting and Johannes do just that.