I first became aware that women were underrepresented in science-based careers back in the 1980s. My Dad worked for the Engineering Industry Training Board and I was proud of the role he played in setting up an organisation called Women into Science and Engineering (WISE). It still works with employers to help them attract, retain and develop women in these careers. That was back in 1984, nearly 40 years ago, so I have mixed feelings about the fact that the organisation is still going strong!
Of course, we have made lots of progress since the 1980s and the benefits of employing women in STEM roles are widely acknowledged. Yet still, many girls are picking up gender stereotypes about careers and may already have mentally excluded themselves from STEM career options at very young ages. And whilst more and more girls are choosing STEM subjects at higher education, many do not end up pursuing STEM careers. For those that do take up STEM careers, there is still a gender pay gap and they are still less likely to progress to senior roles. So there is work still to be done and many clubs are playing a part in this global effort.
SI Bournemouth is about to run its 10th annual STEM challenge competition, asking local schoolgirls to research, plan and prototype a sustainable solution to a real developing world problem. The teams present their projects to the judges and get to meet women already in STEM roles. Hundreds of girls have now benefitted from taking part. SI Bournemouth STEAM challenge
My club, SI Salisbury, have been researching and telling the stories of our local women and using this as a resource for local schools. This story of an ‘Innovator of the Year’ award winner is one such example. hersalisburystory.com/petra-oyston
SI Leeds operate a bursary scheme for young women who want to study STEM options at Leeds universities. Recipients benefit both financially and from the boost in confidence that being selected gives them. That’s a priceless gift.
Please do look at the details of these and many other STEM related projects to provide inspiration for your own projects. Whether its career events, mentoring, challenges, shouting about successes, financial support or something else, we can all play a part in helping girls believe that STEM careers can be theirs too.