Closing the STEM Gender Gap

Last month, Ontario’s Education Minister, Liz Sandals, announced a plan set to roll out next fall in which students will receive a minimum of 60 minutes of math a day. Usually schools and teachers decide how much time is devoted to a core subject, so the government stipulating this is an unusual step.

The program is designed to address the downward slide in students’ math skills that will ultimately shut Ontario students out of science, technology, engineering and math careers. 

Setting our children up for success is what education is all about. So this is a great step. It’s one part of the picture. We also know that girls who excel in math in high school often don’t choose to pursue STEM subjects in university. We can work to provide a solid foundation in math, and at the same time we need to make sure all students are comfortable pursuing their interest in math-related subjects when they get to university.

A network of women connected to U of T Scarborough is doing just that. Sophie Chysostomou, an associate professor, teaching stream, and her former student Judy Shanks, a math teacher for the Durham District School Board, started Math in Motion, Girls in Gear, to motivate and encourage Grade 9 girls to pursue their interest in STEM subjects. Together with other U of T Scarborough alumni and friends, they’ve held this full-day program for 12 years. In fact, this year Premier Kathleen Wynne delivered the keynote, talking to the girls attending about her own experiences as a student and answering their questions. In an op-ed published by the Toronto Star yesterday, Sophie and Judy talk about what drives them and why this is so important:

Sophie, Judy and their colleagues are walking the talk. And that’s where this story gets even more interesting. In organizing this program, they are also building a network of women who are committed to opening doors for Ontario girls keen on STEM subjects. In fact, some Math in Motion, Girls in Gear alumni are now U of T Scarborough students who are volunteering and working on the organizing committee—mentoring today’s Grade 9 girls who are tomorrow’s STEM majors and mentors to the next generation of Girls in Gear.

Read more about Sophie, Judy and Girls in Gear