By Christine Witcher
Middle School Science Dept. Chair
Technology & Innovation Specialist
October 4, 2018
This semester, the eighth grade will spend eight weeks in an entrepreneurship Explore class. Entrepreneurship is the process of responding to real-world needs with innovative and useful solutions. This leadership opportunity supports the development of a variety of skills, including:
- Idea Generation: Brainstorming to generate worthwhile ideas without getting attached to any one.
- Venture Modeling: Working methodically to evaluate ideas and develop a venture model.
- Market Research: Building empathy with your consumer by conducting market research.
- Iterative Prototyping: Prototyping with intention and embracing feedback as an opportunity to iterate and revise.
I have the privilege, along with learning specialist Chris Golden, of co-teaching the entrepreneurship course at Forest Ridge. Over the summer, Chris and I read the book Venture Girls: Raising Girls to be Tomorrow's Leaders by Cristal Glangchai, Ph.D. In her book, Dr. Glangchai points out some startling facts regarding the representation of women in STEM fields and business leadership, both in real life and in the media:
- "Of US teens polled in a 2013 survey by the Department of Labor, just 16 percent of girls expressed possible interest in STEM careers, compared with 30 percent of boys…"
- In the US, women make up just 18 percent of the computer science majors. • "[O]f the giant companies listed in the Standard & Poor’s Composite 500 Index, 4.1 percent are headed by women . . .while [men named John] are in charge at 5.3 percent."
- "[A] 2015 study sponsored by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that in 120 popular films recently produced in countries around the world, the ratio of male to female characters depicted as having STEM careers was greater than seven to one (88.4 percent to 11.6 percent)."
So what can we do about it? Dr. Glangchai cites research by Dr. Lina Nilsson, a biomedical engineer and innovation director at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley:
"Women seem to be drawn to engineering projects that attempt to achieve societal good. . .The key to increasing the number of female engineers may not just be mentorship programs or child care centers, although those are important. It may be about reframing the goals of engineering research and curriculums to be more relevant to societal needs."
Building off this discovery, we decided to test how this pattern holds up when applied to entrepreneurship. We designed a curriculum where students experience the visioning stage of a social entrepreneurship venture. The girls are working in teams to identify a global problem and design a publication that directly impacts that problem. Their publication should suit their audience and can range from a print magazine to an Instagram feed or vlog (video blog). The girls are tackling big issues such as plastic pollution, air quality in U.S. cities, female genital mutilation, mental health stigma, and access to mental health care. But bigger than these issues are the skills the girls are learning. The entrepreneurial mindset, marked by curiosity, courage, and optimism, is something we hope will stick with them for life.
- Forest Ridge Blog