Classroom Design Could Make More Young Girls Choose STEM Courses

Classroom Design Could Make More Young Girls Choose STEM Courses

No one is surprised by the plethora of statistics stating that there are way fewer women in STEM fields than men. Those numbers don’t stand for just adults, either; there’s a gigantic discrepancy in the number of teenage girls showing interest in STEM fields than their male counterparts, and that number only increases as they get older.

However, what if there was a simpler solution to getting more girls interested in things like computer science that had nothing to do with the science or technology itself? What if I told you it had everything to do with something incredible simple?

Two words: Classroom design.

The University of Washington recently conducted a study that showed that when the classrooms where computer science classes were being taught were “less geeky” in design, three times as many high school women showed interest in taking the course.

The whole study goes back to the idea of stereotypes: By the time they’re 14 or 15, many women have preconceived notions of what a computer science student is (most think Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory), and since many teenage girls find that stereotype unsavory (no one wants to be the unlikable nerd), they don’t want to fit that mold and opt out of taking the course. So, if a classroom is filled with other things besides Star Trek posters and “nerdy” paraphernalia (this study included a “non-geeky” room that had plants, “general interest” magazines, and lamps), women are more likely to stop seeing a computer science class as being strictly for geeky guys.

It’ll be interesting to see how this study can be applied to other spaces to make underrepresented groups feel more welcome and less intimidated.

You can read more on the study and this stereotype phenomenon here.

Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.