In 2015, Johnson & Johnson launched WiSTEM2D: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing, and Design (STEM2D). Led by a network of volunteers from across Johnson & Johnson and its local operating companies, this ambitious initiative involves:
Our goal is to engage girls and women of all ages and throughout every cycle of their educational and professional lives in STEM2D fields, as well as expand the field of focus by including manufacturing and design. We aim to cultivate females’ STEM2D interests at an early age and help them continue to grow and develop in these areas, so they're prepared and positioned to pursue higher education and careers in STEM2D. With this foundation, girls and women are primed to make valuable contributions to their communities, companies, and the world in the years and decades ahead.
In addition to subject-specific learning, STEM2D is an approach to or way of understanding, exploring, and engaging with the world. In this sense, STEM2D disciplines cannot be considered in silos and applied STEM2D is often interdisciplinary, as presented in the activities that accompany this guide. STEM2D fosters inquiring minds, logical reasoning, creative thinking, problem solving, and collaboration skills. These are the capabilities and skills that prepare students to become the future innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders, who can solve the most pressing challenges of tomorrow.
Following the global financial crisis of 2008, there are millions of young people who are neither employed nor in education or training, referred to as “NEETs.” NEET rates rose in both the United States and the European Union during and after the crisis. Many EU countries’ NEET rates remain well above pre-crisis levels. In the United States there were 10.2 million NEETs, ages 16–29 in 2015. This need for workers with STEM skills is a persistent and growing global trend, resulting in a skills mismatch, further demonstrating the need for relevant educational experiences for young people.
For many girls who start out strong in mathematics and science, interest wanes along the way. There is clear evidence supporting the fact that girls and young women often receive social cues—regularly reinforced in conscious and subconscious ways by parents, teachers, university professors, and even managers on the job—that they cannot compete with male counterparts and, therefore, should not pursue their goals in STEM2D fields.
The result is what is often referred to as a “leaky pipeline,” in which talented girls eventually steer away from careers in STEM2D and pursue work in fields where they will receive more positive reinforcement and do not have to fight as hard to carve out their place in the world.
Understanding how and under what circumstances STEM2D identity develops is crucial to increasing girls’ interest, engagement, and performance in STEM, and ultimately enchantment with STEM2D. Lack of a STEM2D identity is often cited as one of the main reasons that girls do not pursue STEM2D education and careers. The existing literature on the development of girls’ STEM2D identity points out the importance of the learning environment as a community of girls and young women and the need to create learning environments that foster self-efficacy and agency.
There are three aspects of a positive STEM identity:
Identity is not static; it is developed through social processes and shared experiences. It has been documented that girls create “identity in practice” by combining knowledge from their in-school and out-of- school worlds. The ability to see oneself as proficient in STEM2D is formed through a community of practice created by a teacher or any role model who provides space for children and youth to bring knowledge from their social worlds to their study of math and science.
Although the research is specific to girls and this guide was created with girls at the focus, hands-on, minds-on learning that builds confidence, teamwork, and provides diverse role models and mentors is not exclusive to girls. STEM2D benefits all young people. Girls and boys can benefit from STEM2D exposure and learning. STEM2D is for everyone.
To advance K–12 outreach, Johnson & Johnson partnered with leading nonprofit organizations FHI 360 and JA (Junior Achievement) Worldwide to develop the STEM2D Guide and website. The guide seeks to enlarge the pool of young people, ages 7–14, especially girls and other under-represented populations, who can aspire to future careers in STEM2D fields. The site contains nine STEM2D activities and best practices that can be used by Johnson & Johnson employees and other volunteers working with young people in classrooms, in out-of-school learning environments, and at community events. Through these partnerships, Johnson & Johnson intends to reach one million girls by 2020.
FHI 360 is a nonprofit human development organization dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions. FHI 360 programs combine evidence with on-the-ground experience to deliver maximum efficiency and impact. FHI 360’s impact is amplified through the synergy of partnerships. The “360” in our name symbolizes our inclusive approach to sustainable success, attained only when we partner with community-based organizations, K–12 and higher education institutions, the private sector, and the communities we serve. FHI 360 serves more than 70 countries and all U.S. states and territories. FHI 360’s National Institute for Work and Learning (NIWL) partnered with Johnson & Johnson on the WiSTEM2D initiative.
JA Worldwide is one of the largest global NGOs dedicated to addressing fundamental social and economic challenges of young people by educating and empowering them to transform their future and own their economic success. JA Worldwide inspires and prepares young people to succeed in a global economy through the delivery of cutting-edge, experiential learning in financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship. With more than 100 member countries, the JA Worldwide network is powered by over 450,000 volunteers and mentors from all sectors of society, reaching more than 10 million young people around the world.
The STEM2D Guide is used by volunteers serving as activity leaders to support the implementation of STEM2D activities and educational opportunities in the following pilot locations.