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About SPARK


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About SPARK


The SPARK WiSTEM2D Resource promotes the valuable involvement of volunteers to inspire young people in the STEM2D subjects and 21st-century careers around the world. Designed as an essential resource for volunteers, SPARK WiSTEM2D:

  • Defines STEM2D principles and philosophy
  • Provides information and statistics on the STEM2D labor market and diversity of career options
  • Conveys that STEM2D is exciting and is a dynamic pathway that can open options for a variety of future careers
  • Highlights research-based strategies and tips for engaging and interacting with girls and young women
  • Offers tips and practical information to help you talk about yourself, your education, and your career path
  • Empowers you to engage in the STEM2D initiative through multiple approaches across in-school and out-of-school activities, as well as community-based events

Supplemental materials (available in the SPARK WiSTEM2D Resource), such as the Tell My Story Form, offer both first-time volunteers and those who would like a refresher assistance in developing their own STEM2D story and showcasing their accomplishments in a relevant and personal way. The Volunteer Tips offer practical advice for working with educators, communicating effectively with young people, and facilitating groups of students. Although the research presented is specific to girls, and the content was created with girls as the focus, girls and boys can benefit from STEM2D exposure and learning. STEM2D is for everyone.

Download the SPARK WiSTEM2D Resource in one of six languages:

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About STEM2D


About STEM2D


About STEM2D

STEM2D is an acronym that refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Manufacturing, and Design. The STEM2D subjects are:

  • Science: Observing, studying, and experimenting to better understand the natural world and how it works.
  • Technology: Putting science and other knowledge to practical use to solve problems, invent useful tools, envision new possibilities, and establish meaningful connections between people and the world that surrounds them.
  • Engineering: Applying science and math principles to design and develop products, structures, machines, tools, or systems that improve everyday life.
  • Mathematics: Using a quantitative framework (numbers, quantities, shapes, abstract principles, and problem solving) to describe the world.
  • Manufacturing: Creating something from raw materials by hand or by machinery.
  • Design: Creating, constructing, or inventing an object, plan, product, or system; it is also a human-centered mindset and collaborative approach that results in better experiences by uncovering unmet needs and championing meaningful relationships through user-friendly products, environments, and systems.

Currently, there is significant research on and programs aimed at improving the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects, and “STEM” is referenced in this document when citing the research. Johnson & Johnson added “2D” to its initiative to recognize and elevate the manufacturing and design disciplines, which are directly aligned with the other STEM subjects. As a result, WiSTEM2D advances the vast array of careers and career paths that are available in these interdisciplinary subjects throughout the world.

The STEM2D Philosophy

STEM2D subjects cannot be considered in siloes. Rather, the STEM 2D philosophy relies on a student-centered, integrated approach to understanding, exploring, and engaging with the world. This comprehensive approach involves:

  • Collaboration and teamwork: Collaboration and teamwork give young people the opportunity to work with others to design, produce, or create something.
  • Hands-on, minds-on learning: The hands-on part of learning means that young people are engaged, trying things out, and physically manipulation objects and ideas so that they stay interested. Minds-on learning requires an active involvement with learning in which young people are curious and keep their brains active with challenging ideas.
  • Inquiry-based investigation: Young people learn best through inquiry. Inquiry-based investigation is a method of instruction that starts by posing questions, problems, or scenarios rather than simply presenting established facts. Successful inquiry-based investigation activities encourage students to use the FERA learning cycle: Focus, Explore, Reflect, and Apply (FERA). This four-stage learning cycle is grounded in educational research and practice. This process is similar to the ones that scientists employ (such as the 5E model).
  • Project-based work that has real-life applications: Project-based work is a teaching method in which young people gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period to investigate and respond to real-life engaging and complex questions, problems, or challenges.
  • The opportunity to build confidence: Confidence, or a feeling of self-assurance, arises from the appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities and the receipt of positive feedback for her or his efforts.
  • Exposure to diverse role models: Diverse role models—people whose behavior, example, or success can be emulated by others—are critically important and a powerful message for young women and girls.

Download the SPARK WiSTEM2D Resource in one of six languages:

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Why STEM2D-2


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Why STEM2D?

The STEM2D philosophy makes learning more exciting, interesting, meaningful, and relevant. It also fosters inquiring minds, logical reasoning, creative thinking, problem solving, and collaboration. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technical society, all students need to develop these cross-cutting skills and capabilities at levels beyond what was considered acceptable in the past. These are the capabilities and skills that prepare students to become the future innovators, educators, researchers, and community leaders. STEM2D builds strong:

  • Thinking skills: Critical and creative thinking helps young people solve problems, detect mistakes, gather relevant information, and understand how different parts or systems interact with each other.
  • Communication skills: Communication skills are important for working well with others, listening, and conveying information clearly, both orally and in writing. Communication skills include technical writing, public speaking, interpersonal communication, and the ability to explain difficult concepts simply.

In addition, the STEM2D approach results in smarter, more competitive, more productive, and engaged global citizens who:

  • Make informed decisions about health and safety
  • Are better able to participate in public policy decisions and debates
  • Manage daily lives that increasingly rely on technology
  • Find solutions for challenges that face our global population

Finally, the global demand for STEM talent is growing. Experts indicated that almost all of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the next decade will require at least some background in STEM. Between 2014 and 2024, the number of STEM jobs will grow 17 percent, compared with 12 percent for non-STEM jobs. This represents an increase of about 1 million new jobs. Demand for design professionals is also high and growing. For example, between 2010 and 2014 design employment grew by 21.7% compared to 6.1% for the UK economy as a whole.

Why Women in STEM2D?

There is a lack of gender diversity in STEM2D fields. For example, although women in the United States made up 57.2 percent of all professional workers in 2015, they comprised only 46.6 percent of science professionals, 24.7 percent of computer and math professionals, and 15.1 percent of engineering and architecture professionals. The scarcity of women in STEM2D fields is a long-standing and persistent problem. And, in advanced manufacturing, women made up only 10 percent of the workforce in 2001 and 2014. Other countries across the globe see similar statistics.

For many girls who start out strong in mathematics and science, interest wanes along the way. Clear evidence supports that girls and young women 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 STEM fields. The result is what is often referred to as a leaky pipeline, in which talented girls eventually steer away from careers in STEM 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. It is our belief that STEM2D awareness, exposure, and understanding will serve girls and young women well.

The Diversity of STEM2D Careers

STEM2D careers, as well as those in the associated health and healthcare fields, cover a broad spectrum of occupations. All require workers to use their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, or math to understand how the world works and to solve problems.

A STEM2D career isn’t only for people who have post-secondary degrees. Rather, STEM2D entry-level educational and training requirements vary greatly. Of the fastest-growing STEM2D occupations, nearly half require a two-year Associate’s degree, certificate, or the completion of an apprenticeship and pay an average of 10 percent higher than non-STEM2D jobs with similar education requirements. A very small number require either some college but no degree, or a secondary-school diploma or equivalent. The remainder of STEM2D occupations require a three- to four-year Bachelor’s degree. More technical and advanced jobs, including those in medicine or research, usually require additional education and training, as well as a professional or advanced degree.

Professionals in STEM occupations generally enjoy higher average salaries than those employed in non-STEM jobs. In 1970, STEM workers earned 12 percent more than non-STEM workers. By 2012, STEM workers earned 21 percent more. Mean annual earnings remain higher for STEM jobs than non-STEM professional or related occupations; however, within each STEM field, there is wide variation.

  Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016.

Higher wages for STEM workers can be seen across all occupations and at every education level, a trend that remains consistent across time. In addition, growing demand for STEM professionals results in a tight labor market and typically low unemployment levels. For example, in September 2016, the unemployment rate for all occupations was 4.8%, while the rate for architecture and engineering occupations was 1.9%.

  Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016.

Footnotes available in the SPARK WiSTEM2D Resource.

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Sparking Interest in STEM2D


Sparking Interest in STEM2D


Sparking Interest in STEM2D

The SPARK WiSTEM2D Resource gives you tips and ideas for sparking interest in STEM2D. Download the resource or continue reading, below.

Nurturing STEM2D Identity

STEM2D identity refers to a person’s beliefs, attitudes, emotions, and dispositions about STEM2D and her resulting motivation and approach to learning and using knowledge. It involves the ways students think about themselves in relation to STEM2D and the extent to which they have developed a commitment to, are engaged in, and see value in STEM2D. Girls in particular have a conflict between their self-identity (“people like me”) and their perception of who does STEM2D (“not people like me”). They struggle to identify with STEM2D culture and professionals.

It is important for you to understand how and under what circumstances STEM2D identity develops. Try to nurture a positive STEM2D identity as it is crucial to increasing girls’ interest, engagement, and performance in 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. You can nurture a positive STEM2D identity by cultivating:

  • Interest: Young people who are interested in STEM2D like to do STEM2D. They are excited about it, express curiosity in STEM2D subjects, and want to try more activities. In fact, elementary school students who show this kind of interest report taking further STEM2D classes in middle or high school.
  • Confidence: Young people who have confidence in their abilities can do STEM2D. They will persist in the face of initial failures. This is an essential feature of a growth mindset—the idea that ability and competence grow with effort. Research points out that with a growth mindset (as opposed to a fixed mindset), you believe that the harder you work, the smarter you grow. People with a growth mindset are more persistent, are encouraged by failure, and choose challenging work and subjects to study, like STEM2D.
  • Relevance: Young people who understand the relevance and value of STEM2D want to do STEM2D. They understand STEM2D’s relevance in contributing to society and solving global and local problems, and they see how STEM2D intimately connects to their everyday lives.

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.

Improving STEM2D Awareness

Despite living in the information age, young people today are only slightly more informed than their predecessors about their career options. They often don’t have a clear grasp of the diverse options and the array of career choices available to them. Therefore, it is critical in your interactions with young people to introduce and make girls aware of the broad spectrum of STEM2D careers. You can:

  • Be a role model. It is important to remember that during the time—even minimal amounts—spent with young people, you can serve as a role model. Exposure to female role models has been shown to improve performance on tests and to invalidate stereotypes. No matter which STEM2D category, a female role model can be found. It is important to show and teach the stories of women.
  • Offer personal stories. All volunteers—regardless of gender—can greatly enrich their time with young people by drawing on and sharing their own experiences. The Tell My Story Form supports and encourages volunteers to develop their STEM2D story and share their accomplishments in a relevant and personal way. These shared experiences provide an opportunity for you to have an impact and help girls establish a positive STEM2D identity.
  • Relate to the young person. Young people have unique social, personal, and academic needs. Approach them with sincerity and respect. Learn their names and encourage their participation.
  • Provide meaningful advice.No two people or communities are alike, and no single activity or talk will meet the needs of all young people.
  • Connect the activities to young people’s current and future needs. Personalize everything.

Download the SPARK WiSTEM2D Resource in one of six languages:

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Encouraging and Engaging Girls


Encouraging and Engaging Girls


Encouraging and Engaging Girls

Several proven strategies can be used to encourage and engage girls in STEM:

  • Teach girls that academic abilities are expandable and improvable. If you have ever learned to play a musical instrument or participated in a team sport, you know that it takes time, effort, and practice to succeed. The same is true of STEM2D subject abilities: They improve through consistent effort and learning. Knowing the right answer may make students feel smart, but what happens when there is no right answer? Then students need to problem solve, which takes a lot of time and effort. Such problem solving can be very intriguing to girls. It is important for girls to know that cognitive abilities are not fixed or determined by gender. All it takes to close the gender gap is girls having curiosity, interest, questions, and an environment that fosters those aspects of learning.

    Key Strategy: Teach girls that working hard to gain knowledge improves performance.

  • Provide prescriptive, informational feedback. Everyone likes to hear, “good job” in terms of their performance. However, try to amend their feedback when it comes to encouraging girls’ abilities. A simple “good job” doesn’t tell girls why they are doing well, which is important in building girls’ confidence. Furthermore, stating that an answer is incorrect with no explanation can lead girls to believe they lack the ability to get it right and cannot do math and science. Informational feedback on effort and content—such as, “You worked really hard to solve that problem,” or “Review your calculations in Step 3; there is a minor multiplication error,”—positively influences girls’ beliefs about their abilities. This is an important strategy to keep girls interested in solving challenging problems.

    Key Strategy: Provide girls with positive feedback about why they are doing well and specific information about how to make corrections.

  • Create an environment that sparks initial curiosity and fosters long-term interest. Some students are naturally interested in tinkering and technology. Others have more artistic or humanitarian interests. To cultivate a long-term interest in STEM2D, exercise creativity by embedding STEM2D into fantasy scenarios, real-world problems, popular culture, and even day-to-day life. Literacy also plays a large part in this recommendation. Girls also respond well to strategies that integrate literacy with science. Reading informational text is important in the context of science because reading is something scientists do. Informational text can generate interest and further curiosity, provide data and evidence to explain phenomena, and provide the context for defining problems.

    Key Strategy: Embed tinkering, creativity, and literacy into science activities in contexts that are interesting to girls.

  • Provide spatial reasoning skills training. Girls perform well on tests closely related to school-taught curriculum. However, questions on standardized tests do not closely match day-to-day learning. Researchers have found that spatial skills (the capacity to understand, reason, and remember the spatial relations among objects or space) are associated with performance on math tests and that spatial skills can be improved with practice. To improve spatial skills, encourage girls to design and build things. Emphasize skills like mental visualization of what objects look like when they are rotated in space. Even at the earliest ages, increasing spatial skills is shown to impre girls’ standardized test scores later in their primary and secondary education.

    Key Strategy: Have girls answer math and science problems using both verbal responses and spatial displays.

Footnotes available in the SPARK WiSTEM2D Resource.

Download the SPARK WiSTEM2D Resource in one of six languages:

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Get Involved!


Get Involved!


Get Involved!

To spark girls’ and young women’s interest with STEM2D subjects, we need to reach them where they are—in urban centers, small towns, villages, and rural communities. STEM2D must be accessible and available in a broad variety of places or settings: in schools, afterschool programs, community-based events, museums, libraries, business conference rooms, and village squares.

There are many ways to engage with this initiative, whether you want to help plan an event, share your career journey, present material in a school setting, organize a learning experience at your company for girls, or become part of a strategy team. With more than 400 volunteers to date, we are excited to grow this movement with your support and participation.

Head over to the Activities section of this website for more tools, tips, and strategies to support you in WiSTEM2D volunteer experiences.

PowerPoint Presentation Template

Have you been asked to do a presentation on the WiSTEM2D initiative or you STEM2D volunteer experience? Download a PowerPoint designed just for you, including many of the fun elements you find in the WiSTEM2D resources.