Bringing the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths to life for young girls
Exciting opportunities available to young women in the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) were brought to life for Year 8 and 9 girls as they joined nearly 200 students from nine Leeds schools at a conference-style event organised by local not-for-profit organisation Ahead Partnership.
The ‘STEM for Girls’ event sought to showcase the breadth of opportunities and industries in the area through a series of engaging activities, whilst discouraging stereotypes at a time when huge gender disparities are evident in many STEM industries. Held at the impressive Asda Merchandising Centre of Excellence in Leeds city centre, the event took place across a full school day on Thursday 19th March.
The girls were given hands-on experience in a range of interactive workshops led by representatives from a vast range of industries, from architectural engineering and 3-D printing, to food science and virtual reality. Businesses ranged from national and global giants Siemens, ASDA, and the Armed Forces to local SMEs such as IC Brands and The Test People.
Whilst getting real-life experience of STEM and the opportunities within this world of work, the girls were able to engage with female role models and also encouraged to think about the implications of gender stereotypes and how they might begin to challenge them, facilitated by panel Q+As and round-table discussions with inspirational female business representatives.
And these activities certainly seemed to have an inspirational effect. When asked what she had taken away from the event, one of the students said: “I really enjoyed the event and it has inspired me to look at different careers that I have not looked at before.”
The students were invited to the event following the school’s recent commitment to work with Ahead Partnership’s Make the Grade project, a unique initiative focused on driving pupils’ aspirations whilst creating long-term partnerships between schools and businesses. This partnership will see Grange Technology College and Southfield School become the first schools in Bradford to sign up to Make the Grade, which will enhance students’ employability skills and help employers address skills gaps. The two schools have already secured Yorkshire Building Society as their lead business partner.
Nick Bell, Headteacher said: “We’re delighted to have been invited to this event and look forward to seeing our Make the Grade project develop towards its official launch across the Southfield Grange Campus in September. Already we are seeing the benefits of working with Ahead Partnership. This is a unique opportunity for girls to access an event which showcases the types of opportunities which are available to them through STEM pathways.”
This comes at a time when a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), having examined different gender gaps in education, found that women are much less likely to study many science and maths-based subjects and to have the same self-confidence as boys in this area. STEM for Girls comes at a time when huge disparities between the genders are evident in many STEM industries – a 2012 study found that just 13% of those working in STEM occupations in the UK were women.
Joanna Robinson, Managing Director of Bradford based company Mansfield Pollard and winner of Corporate Leader of the Year at Forward Ladies Women in Business Awards 2014, who closed event, said: “I’m delighted to be able to be involved in this STEM for Girls event for two reasons. Firstly I know that having diversity in the workplace is very important and makes a significant contribution to the performance of businesses. Access to a broader pool of talent can only be beneficial and having a work force which is more representative of the community at large is also very important.”
She continues: “Secondly I have been a supporter of STEM initiatives for some time as education in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths supports access to rich and varied career pathways for students. As the leader of an engineering business I’m keen to see more girls take up the rewarding challenges that can come from careers in engineering, science and technology."