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Girls in STEAM: A Design Thinking Approach to Closing the Gender Gap in Japan

Tue, April 16, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview B

Proposal

Despite a growing demand for skilled workers in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), highly educated women are not pursuing careers in STEAM at the rate needed by many developed economies. This problem is particularly strong in Japan where women continue to struggle to reach equality in a highly gendered workforce. This study explores the way in which middle and high school girls in Japan perceive the STEAM fields and how this impacts their career aspirations. It is a case study of students who participated in an educational program that uses design thinking, a methodology for problem-solving that teaches collaboration and communication, to encourage more girls to pursue a career in STEAM. The findings indicate that while the girls possess many of the skills necessary to a career in STEAM, the traditional, lecture-based structure of their STEAM classes at schools discourages them from wanting to engage in the subject at university. The girls’ reactions to STEAM in the context of design thinking, however, sparks a higher degree of engagement and interest in the field. This highlights the need for curriculum reform that brings more interactive student-centered learning models into math and science courses. Doing so can play a role in motivating more girls to pursue a career in STEAM.

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