I have been reading the posts in the “Girls on Teams” and it has got me thinking. There seem to be a lot of teams that have a good male to female mix and who also do a good job of engaging the women members and providing a nurturing and rewarding experience. However there also seems to be some teams where that is not the case.
From what I have seen of FIRST teams in my short time as a mentor, I cannot really believe that this is because of some active attempt to keep women out, or force them into stereotyped roles. However, a robotics team of all or mostly guys could be fairly intimidating to new women members and might easily become a self sustaining situation without an active attempt to turn things around. And I doubt many teams in this situation are likely to have much of a clue what they really need to do to change things.
Perhaps we can work to turn this around by sharing some best practices on engaging women students (and mentors, coaches, etc.) into FIRST. What has your team found that that helps? Or have you found things that should really be avoided? What have you found to be the best practices in encouraging women to get involved with FIRST and making sure they get the most out of the experience.
Here is one thing to get started. Last week our team had an open house at the orientation for next years Freshman. As I watched the interactions between the students, I noticed several women stop by our information table who looked like they might be interested, but when asked said they did not know anything about robots and were not really interested. At that point if a male student tried to convince them to sign up, or told them how great robotics was, they seemed to have a low success rate. However, if female member of our team said “you should really at least try it, I didn’t know anything about electronics or robots when I started, but no one does at first, and you learn a lot,” that seemed to make a big difference.
So, I did not get a huge number of data points, and I do not know if that technique was what made the difference, but who knows. In any case, have other teams found good ways to help break the ice so to speak in getting women involved in FIRST, or making sure they have a positive experience?