According to a new Kickstarter campaign launched to raise funds for a STEM-focused comic magazine for girls, 74% of middle school girls say they love science, but less than 15% of these girls end up in the STEM workforce. There is clearly a pipeline issue in not just academia but in society and culture and it needs to be fixed.
Smore magazine aims to close that gap by giving young girls an entertaining, informative and engaging piece of media that they can read outside of their school setting, where they may have no other way to get their hands on science inspiration. The magazine is the creation of scientist, educator and mother-of-two Sarita Menon, who says she is very aware of the under-representation of women in some of the science and tech fields.
“I am a passionate advocate to inspire and support girls in science. I have always wondered what could I do to change the equation and get young girls to pursue their interests towards a STEM future. So Smore was born from that passion to motivate the future generation of girl scientists, engineers and innovators,” she wrote on the Smore website.
The Kickstarter campaign was launched to raise funds for publishing, graphic design, writers, editors, and a photographer for the women who will be featured in the magazine. The diverse team of Smore creators plan to publish 6 editions a year, completely ad-free, making their “bite-size” science topics available both in digital and print versions for girls aged 7-12 years. They add a caveat that although it is designed for girls, the magazine is recommended for all humans!
In the campaign video, Sarita explains her frustration with the bulk of what magazines aimed at women and girls were offering in the way of content.
“When I look at young girls’ magazines today, all I see are celebrities and models on the cover, with hair and make-up tips, which is great. But I wonder, why isn’t the Google Science Fair winner on the cover? Why aren’t they showing our young girls as stars?” she asks.
Not only will each edition be filled with facts and real life scientific role models for readers to get inspired by, but they will go where the average young women’s magazine has not yet dared to go. They will feature teen inventors and scientists as their cover models, as Smore wants to shatter the stereotype that “women are not made for science and technology”.
At the academic stage, women either outpace or are on par with men in certain STEM degrees such as biosciences and mathematics, but in the computer science and engineering areas they are certainly far behind. In the workforce, these same comparisons are reflected, where women are represented equally to men in the bio and medical sciences, but fall behind in computer sciences, according to a PBS Newshour report.
Taking it back to the early stage of an adolescent’s life, what they are immersed in socially and culturally certainly plays a role in how they will view themselves in the future. As Sarita points out, if girls are accustomed to seeing media entirely dedicated to showing them how to improve their physicality, they are going to get left behind. When they see visual representations of women who are conquering the science world, it can spark imaginations and “un-learn” the way media teaches girls to focus on their external as the center of their worth in the world.
“Smore was created from a passion for empowering young girls to follow their dreams with confidence. And Smore wants to provide this empowering content free from distracting marketing messages,” says a description on the Kickstarter campaign, which is why they don’t want to include any advertising in their pages.
It’s not hard for a young girl to name her favorite music or film star, but having a strong presence of real like STEM role models will no doubt have a profound effect on their identity and choices. We applaud Sarita and her Smore Magazine team for using their expertise to pay it forward to the next generation of brilliant female scientists. And as she mentions in her campaign video, the intention is also for young boys to grow up seeing girls being immersed in science as a normal, and equal thing.