I don’t know for how long it is that I’ve been encouraging girls to take on roles that have previously and traditionally been associated with men – all my life, I think!
So when I hear the clarion call that ‘Girls belong in STEM too!’ I’m right on it. But unfortunately, despite significant efforts to redress this imbalance, the massive disparity in the number of women in STEM still exists! Fortunately, there have been huge shifts, especially in educating girls and young women about this gender gap. We are continuing to change – not only the way we talk to students about STEM but also the way we acknowledge its impact on SMSC.
Read on for our top 5 ways to encourage girls in STEM.
1. Learn About and Meet Role Models
Representation of women in science has progressed over the past century, so we have increased capacity to direct our students to role models. With more impressive examples of successful women in STEM, we can let our children know that these women are changing the world. LifeWise has numerous lessons where we challenge gender stereotypes – along with a brand new assembly and suite of snippet lessons to explore the historical role of girls and women as pioneers. Exemplars like these can provide young girls with inspiration and motivation to pursue their ambitions and dreams. And wherever you are, I guarantee you will find students and young graduates and professional women in your locality who can inspire your pupils face-to-face. Invite them in, or offer a zoom space so that they can share in these accomplishments and encourage girls to visualise just what is possible.
2. Share the Research Data
There are many examples where data highlights the inequities. One example, according to UNESCO data, shows that just 22 per cent of professionals working in the AI field are women. Implicit biases impact our lives, and so, even when men try to address the imbalance, male-dominated research teams cannot completely integrate women’s experiences into their built algorithms. Did you know that women are 73 per cent more likely to be seriously injured in frontal car accidents because the history of crash test dummies has been engineered by men? While major safety rating systems around the world stipulate stringent procedures, none still use a dummy representing an average female. If our young girls are aware of such facts by sharing this kind of information in reputable research data, maybe it will spur them to challenge the status quo.
3. Encourage Positive Attributes
Science has never been an area that relies on any gender-based trait (if, indeed, they exist) – on the contrary; it requires commitment, observation, persistence, inventiveness and a dedicated work ethic. We want to encourage these skills in all learners, no matter what their gender or their intended career path down the line. Quickly eradicate any notion that ‘gendered’ attributes – those that have become uncomfortably and incorrectly associated with just one gender – are necessary to, or detract from, taking up STEM subjects.
4. Foster Collaboration, Connection and Cooperation
The UN, governments, and business leaders long ago acknowledged the importance of connections and deep collaboration to drive progress on common objectives. The Sustainable Development Goals are still in place to make the world’s environments, economies and societies significantly better by 2030. The pandemic has shown how the power of collaboration, with coordinated and consistent response, can challenge what threatens us. Our children are acutely aware of what happens when that cooperation is lacking. Show our children how reliant we are on each other for our collective health and wellbeing and how their contribution to finding creative solutions matter globally. A new Fairtrade assembly and lesson suite will support you in this task.
5. Make Learning About Science and Its Impact on Life Fun!
Oh my! Haven’t we been caught up with attainment and lost curriculum and catch up of late? So much so that it’s entirely understandable that for a moment, we may have forgotten that the best learning is engaging, challenging and fun. Working with children, you cannot fail to be interested in what fascinates and inspires them. Their science experiences can also elicit awe and wonder, maybe even the desire to protect and care for something, often associated with feelings of deep connection, strong mental health and enjoyment. We want children to keep their inborn sense of wonder alive, and that’s going to be a whole lot easier if they have teachers to share in it, rediscovering with them the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.
About the Author
Julie continues to build on her relentless quest for innovative and impactful pedagogy and is motivated by growing knowledge of neuroscience and its impact on ways of learning. After 30 years in both the UK and schools around the globe, supporting inclusive, diverse learners and mentoring PGCE student teachers as a Headteacher, advisor and consultant, we’re absolutely thrilled to have Julie onboard.
She wholeheartedly supports the LifeWise mission to positively prepare children for life. Julie has been involved in opening trauma informed schools, classroom design and creating communication friendly spaces, growing student numbers, raising attainment. She is also a published author but ask her what her greatest accomplishments include and she’ll tell you the success of students thirty years down the line!
It’s a very different world since the dramatic life-altering sweep of the last few years. But even before the global transformation brought on by the pandemic, it was very different from the world I experienced as a pupil.
Implementing interventions can help to build a child’s self-worth, as well as their academic understanding. Children may be less willing participants in the learning process in the larger classroom environment.
I have been so privileged to work with children; I have learned so much from them. I am still privileged and still learning…or perhaps, in these enlightened days,