From the Gender Gap in STEM to Scholarships and Being “Bad at Math,” We Answer Your Questions

Pretty Brainy exists to address the gender gap in STEM and to do this well, we necessarily focus on girls and what they need to gain equitable learning experiences in science and math, technology and engineering. The girls in our programs are from diverse backgrounds and identities. English may or may not be their first language. Their orientation on how they value STEM and STEAM experiences springs from factors informed by their experiences as girls. According to the American Association of University Women — 

“Gender bias in school remains a significant barrier to girls’ progress in STEM. Starting in early childhood, teachers and parents provide explicit and implicit messages that boys and men are ‘better’ at math and science — although there is no evidence for that. Black girls and women and Latinas are even more likely to be dissuaded from pursuing math and science . . . .”  

Our programs are for girls so girls have the opportunity to gain the experience and confidence to take the lead on STEAM and STEM service projects, develop their own critical thinking and design direction, ask questions without fear of ridicule, and be regarded and respected as engineers, scientists, technologists, and leaders. For more information, see, “Gender Gap in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM): Current Knowledge, Implications for Practice, Policy, and Future Directions.”

Please read this recollection from a girl who walked into her first Pretty Brainy workshop when she was in 7th grade. She now is a STEAM mentor, has created and taught her own coding class, and is a senior developer and college undergraduate.

“Before I walked in the room I thought, ‘I don’t belong here. I don’t know anyone. I haven’t done this before. What if I’m not good enough? What if people are mean?’ I had not had great experiences in school and with other groups. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was terrified. I thought my mentor would be intimidating, but I met her and thought, ‘You’re everything I want to be.’ She went out of her way to explain stuff. Someone, for the first time, believed in me and showed me I could do it. With no context, she understood me. There was no weird competition and no meanness. This was a fully supportive group of women. I could relax and have fun.”

No. Our program environment is grounded in collaboration, cooperation, teamwork, open communication, and curiosity, which preclude bad behavior, exclusivity, unhealthy competition, and cliques. We don’t have time or space for meanness.

You don’t have to know how to do anything before you begin and we hope you make mistakes! We celebrate mistakes because mis-takes, as we call them, lead to great learning. The bigger the mistake, the bigger the lesson. Go make mistakes. You will have great opportunities to make mistakes in our programs. We make it safe to fail and learn from failure.

Nearly everyone thinks they can’t do math, but we know they can. A person’s math skills develop and change over time. Start telling yourself you can do math. Embrace the challenge. Our service learning programs give girls a real-world context for math and other STEAM subjects. Ask almost any of our mentors and they’ll tell you they have failed and needed to repeat at least one college course. Pretty Brainy was created because of the experience our founder had of being spiked from a high school math class. She was told she didn’t belong in an advanced class in which she earned a final grade of an A.

Come to a program. Try it out. Girls discover in Pretty Brainy how much art and design influence science and technology and vice versa. If you do not enjoy yourself and learn something new, your parents can talk to us about a refund.

Yes, scholarship opportunities are available for all of our programs. Most programs are financially supplemented by our generous donors, such that each girl is at least partially scholarshipped into a given program.