The presentation was led by Lily Williamson, a 15-year-old student, and Susie Lee, a tech entrepreneur and CEO of Siren.mobi. They called their panel, “Getting Girls into STEM: Now Versus Then,” and began by providing insight into what STEM was like for women in 1987 (when Susie was in high school) versus now. The statistics were interesting and not very different from today: women were majoring in STEM fields in university at about 40%, but their presence in the STEM workforce was low. In computer science, women majoring in the field began to decline from a peak of 38% to around 18%, which is where the number remains. Susie and Lily turned it over to the audience and asked, “Why does this happen?”
The audience had interesting perspectives, bringing up examples of non-positive media depictions of women in STEM, teachers who aren’t encouraging; and teachers suggesting that a girl pursue math, but become a math teacher. Susie and Lily agreed, and added that socialization of gender norms begins in the womb and continues as soon as a baby is born – baby products are marketed in stores as blue for boys and feature tools, and pink for girls and feature items traditionally associated with motherhood and nurturing (Susie gave an anecdote that when she recently was shopping for baby products, she noticed the girls’ toy section of a store displayed first a toy oven, and then a stroller).