SALT LAKE CITY — You hear it a lot — the hot, high-paying jobs are all in science, technology, math and engineering. And Utah educators are working to help boys and girls be more interested in those fields.
Interest is growing in STEM in Utah, but not as much for girls as for boys. The governor and educators are pushing STEM as a way to grow Utah's economy through high-paying jobs.
The Utah State Office of Education Stem coordinator, Diana Suddreth, said one study shows 25 to 30 percent of boys are looking at pursuing STEM fields. But for girls it's only 10 percent. That's up from 5 percent a few years ago, but there is still a huge gap.
Suddreth said they could do a better job explaining STEM, because part of the problem is misconception. For example, girls may think engineers just sit alone in a lab.
"But engineering is inventing and engineering is creating and engineering is helping people. If you do like sitting in a laboratory all by yourself you can do that too," Suddreth explained.
Some people think computer programming means someone staring at code in front of a screen all day.
"But there are also people doing great things, like designing games or designing programs to improve home security," Suddreth said. "The field has an endless amount of opportunity, but we tend to narrow it so much that people aren't interested."
She said the same thing goes for boys, too. Another study showed that of the 25 percent of college students — male and female — who express interest in STEM fields, half of them ended up studying something else. The Office of Education hopes to study that disconnect and find out why it's happening.
Math may be a problem for some. Suddreth said students need good solid math skills as they move to a college STEM major. The state has been working on improving the K-12 math teaching and curriculum in Utah.
Utah Valley University is hosting a conference on Saturday, March 2 for junior high and high school-aged girls. It is aimed at helping them learn about the high-paying stem careers out there.