Last week, we had International Women’s Day, and the theme was #BalanceforBetter. Yet it seems to me that STEM based roles and education is still rather unbalanced. I for one would like to see more women working in STEM. There are many factors in improving the gender balance here, but the one I would like to focus on is how schools can encourage young women and girls to take an interest in STEM.
When I was at school, I certainly wasn’t encouraged to take an interest in STEM, I found mathematics and physics difficult which pushed me towards more arts based subjects. I loved these creative subjects, but I feel I missed out by not engaging with STEM. Later, when I worked as a primary school teacher, I really enjoyed teaching those subjects and I thought a lot about the practical applications, and the useful knowledge and skills I could have gained by pushing myself to work a bit harder in STEM based learning.
As time goes on, I’m improving my technical knowledge, particularly as this is a part of my role here at NetSupport, and I’ve realised what an aid that knowledge and understanding has not only for my job but also my day to day life. Now, if I had been encouraged to take more of an interest in STEM, I don’t know if I would have pursued a different degree or career path, but I know that it definitely would have given me more options.
That’s one of many reasons why I feel young women and girls should be encouraged to take an interest in STEM. There are many doors that can be unlocked with the skills and knowledge they can gain. It’s okay if they decide it isn’t for them, but they should be given the chance to decide that for themselves.
How can schools help get more young women and girls in to STEM?
- Work with businesses
There are businesses which have projects in place to support students getting in to STEM, including those that specifically focus on young women and girls. They may be willing to come in and give talks, offer work experience and more.
- Give a purpose for learning
Teach about different jobs and give pupils the chance to research them, help them understand the knowledge and skills needed for different job roles so that learning is meaningful. Show them a real range of jobs so pupils know the possibilities of where their learning can take them is endless.
- Make learning fun
A common misconception about subjects like science and mathematics is that they are dry and dull. Prove pupils wrong by conducting experiments, going on trips, organising work experience days, bringing in special visitors etc.
- Provide role models
When looking at inspirational people throughout History, do you have a good balance of men and women? Make sure to celebrate achievements of women in STEM to inspire your female pupils. Additionally, ask in visitors working in STEM based roles to share their experiences and be good role models.