I grew up in a home where education was extremely important. In Elementary School when I took interest in math, my parents and teachers encouraged me to continue with this interest. I never felt discouraged from studying math or science. It wasn’t until college when I realized that not all girls grow up that way.
Last year Verizon produced a commercial about a girl growing up who is told certain ways she should think and act. (Watch it here.) This video paints a picture of how girls are discouraged from math or science all throughout growing up. The end statistic hit me hard, “66 percent of 4th grade girls say they like science and math. But only 18 percent of all college engineering majors are female”.
Girls aren’t just underrepresented in engineering. “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce, but are much less represented in particular science and engineering occupations. They comprise 39 percent of chemists and material scientists, 28 percent of environmental scientists and geoscientists, 16 percent of chemical engineers and just 12 percent of civil engineers”  Only 29 percent of economic degrees are awarded to females. 
So why don’t more girls major in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)? While I can’t speak for the majority, I have definitely had moments where I felt discouraged from studying what I love because of my gender. I’ve seen males in math classes disrespect female students and even female professors. I’ve been in groups where my ideas weren’t heard until a male repeated my idea. My own mother, who has instilled gender equality in me since I was little, attributed my scholarship to my gender rather than to my academic achievement. A few males have told me that I shouldn’t go to graduate school because of gender stereotypes. Most importantly, I’ve seen the way gender discrimination has affected my own thoughts. I remember almost talking myself out of declaring my major because I felt like I should be focusing on developing ‘motherly’ attributes that are highly emphasized in my religion’s culture.
So how can we increase the number of girls in STEM fields? One study found that when teachers and parents encourage girls, they tend to do better on math tests and are more likely to continue to study math.  From personal experience, I know that I would not be where I am today without those mentors who have pushed me to learn. We all can show encouragement through our words and actions. We can eliminate negative language when we talk to girls about what they are passionate about. We should strive for an atmosphere of equality in classes. As an awkward seventh grader, I was placed in a math class with a majority of ninth graders boys. In the class, I felt equal. It gave me confidence in math that carried on all the way through high school. In a little way, these boys helped to break my own gender barrier. We can follow the example of these boys by creating an atmosphere where everyone can learn.
At Harvey Mudd College, a liberal arts college, more than half of the engineering majors are female and around 47 percent of females are computer science majors. In order to encourage girls to study computer science, the college hired more female faculty and students are required to take an introductory computer science course . Universities need to create an environment for women to succeed in STEM fields by increases the number of female faculty in STEM areas and creating an environment within the majors where females can succeed. We all play an important role in influencing other’s life so let’s encourage others to purse education in every area.
 Camera, Lauren. “Women Still Underrepresented in STEM Fields.” U.S.News & World Report, 21 Oct. 2015. Web.
 Rampell, Catherine. “Catherine Rampell: Women Shouldn’t Chase after A’s in College to Make More Later.” The Washington Post, 10 Mar. 2014. Web.
 “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.” AAUW. 23 Feb. 2013.
 Burrows, Peter. “Harvey Mudd’s Klawe Maps Way to Woo Young Women Into Tech.” Bloomberg, 7 Aug. 2014. Web.
Video: Verizon Wireless. “Inspire Her Mind”