Research shows that the way sciences are communicated to young people is not gender inclusive. What’s more, young Europeans, both boys and girls, still have very little idea of the diversity of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and the skills that are relevant for those paths. These two factors have a significant influence on the number of girls who choose science-related studies and careers.
For International Women’s Day, I spent the day at Hypatia Project meeting in Bristol. Hypatia is a EU Horizon 2020 funded project that will engage 13-18 year old girls both in and out the school environment. To do this, Hypatia will bring together science centres and museums, schools, research institutions and industry with gender experts and teenagers across Europe. Hypatia was a mathematician, astronomer and philosopher, born in Greece around AD 350-415. Her person and way of thinking inspires this new Horizon 2020 project.
The Hypatia project Experts shared their experience and practical tools to empower everyone to organise and create gender inclusive activities, programmes and events.
Dr Jess Wade and I spoke about ‘Engineer Our Future’ and how hackathons can inspire girls into STEM. Key learning and practical advice for others looking to host such hackathons are:
1) Enabling technical skills learning, which can benefit them after the event. Not just ‘whizz bang science’.
2) Sharing of personal stories from role models encouraging young people into STEM careers
3) Guidance from mentors from within academic institutions/ industry
4) Aspirational environment of a university or corporate
5) Parental and teacher engagement to get buy-in and support
6) Building confidence through student presentations
7) Following up with exciting news, events and competitions local to schools
All attendees were asked to make a pledge to support The Hypatia Project vision. Here’s my Hypatia Project Pledge – how I can practically and realistically increase the impact to make science more engaging.
I am glad to report that I have achieved my pledge:
- Advised and supported Turing Lab to scale their platform to teach kids coding. Just last week they launched the online learning platform for Ada, the National College for Digital Skills.
- Ran a Robotics Workshop in my daughter’s school, St. John Fisher for 90 kids in year 2. It was inspiring to see the excitement of the kids as they interacted with Ohbot, Lego Mindstorm EV3, Wonder Workshop Dash & Dot and Binary Bots Dimm with BBC Micro:bit. They came up with creative ideas for robots that they would build to solve problems they see in the world.
- Leveraged media to make women role-models more visible. Signed up as a role model on Modern Muse. I highly recommend more women to become visible role-models using this platform. Stories can inspire change.
What can you do to share positive stories of women in tech and bring more diversity to STEM education?