Wanna see the STEM gender gap illustrated so starkly that Marie Curie may very well rise from her grave to gnash her teeth? The Carnegie Science Center offers one workshop explicitly for Girl Scouts, and it's about the science of beauty products.
Like plenty of institutions, the Carnegie Science Center has webpages with information explicitly for scouting groups. For the Boy Scouts, they suggest science sleepovers, field trips and numerous badge-related workshops on subjects such as chemistry, astronomy and engineering. (Cub Scouts and Webelos get their own workshops, too.) For the Girl Scouts, they suggest science sleepovers, field trips... and one lousy workshop:
I am not dazzled.
Understandably, Scouts and concerned citizens across the country did not take kindly to this and made their displeasure known on social media. The Carnegie Science Center responded with a long and honestly pretty reasonable post, promising that they do feel very strongly about supporting women in STEM but they just haven't seen much interest in anything except [long, sad sigh] "Science with a Sparkle":
Regarding Girl Scout-specific programming, we have struggled when it comes to enrollments for our Girl Scout programs. In the past, we have offered engineering, chemistry, and robotics programming for Girl Scouts. We created programming to go along with the new Journeys that Girl Scouts use. Unfortunately, no troops signed up for these. The programs that consistently get enrollments are "Science with a Sparkle" and our Sleepovers at the museum.
They also said they were happy to book private workshops for individual troops, catered to their interests. And it's not like the programs for Scouts are all they offer for kids. They also pointed to other offerings explicitly for girls:
Our programs for girls – such as STEM Stars, Tour Your Future, and CanTEEN – can be found here: http://www.carnegiesciencecenter.org/stemcenter/car…. Those programs give girls the opportunity to see female STEM professionals at their worksites, improve academic achievement, and learn about women making strides in STEM.
The folks at the Carnegie Science Center presumably aren't a bunch of troglodytes who think good girls belong in the kitchen. Obviously, there's much more going on here. If the troop leaders don't book, there's nothing CSC can do. Resources are not unlimited, and there's little point in offering programs that nobody attends. That would just be shouting into the void.
None of that answers a pretty basic question, though: Why not just create one page with offerings for Scouts, period? That way you get the boys, the girls, the conservative religious alternatives to both, whoever.
The whole incident is especially disheartening when you consider that Girl Scouts offers a fantastic way to reach girls who don't necessarily think of themselves as science savvy and therefore wouldn't self-select into programs with names like "STEM Stars." It's an amazing opportunity to fight back against the idea that ~ugh this is for boys~ before the concept ever locks into their brains. Surely there is SOME way to frame workshops in robotics and engineering and chemistry that catches the eye of local Girl Scout troop leaders—without making it all about makeup, or fashion, or pink sparkle princesses. The best place to start might be outreach to the local GSUSA organization.
Carnegie Science Center promises that, "Our senior leadership will continue to discuss your thoughtful ideas and work to better our Scout programming." So if you're in the area and involved with the Girl Scouts, drop them a line and let them know what you'd be ready and willing to sign up for.
Photo via AP Images.