Research shows that 43% of those who would consider a career in STEM industries have educators as role models, showing the vital role that educational professionals play in encouraging young girls to consider a career in these industries.
This is particularly important as new research commissioned by Microsoft’s flagship store in Sydney shows that despite a rise in girls interested in working in STEM, very few are entering the related industries.
Of the participants who said that they wouldn’t explore a role in technology or science, 30% attributed this to the fact that they don’t know enough about the jobs they could do.
Fortunately, schools and communities across Australia are being proactive about turning this around.
On Monday, students from Penrhos College in Western Australia had the opportunity to try their hand at code cracking and hear from women working in science and technology careers.
The new initiative – developed by Serco, a public services provider, and wealth management company BT – was developed by Serco ICT director, Michael Penney, following a conversation with his daughter, who was in year 10 at Penrhos College at the time.
The Supporting Girls in STEM workshop, held at Fiona Stanley Hospital in Murdoch, WA, showed students the real-world career pathways that can come from studying (STEM) subjects.
Co-facilitated by Serco, BT, and Murdoch University, the full-day event combined practical exercises and demonstrations with the opportunity to meet women working in the field to discuss the realities of careers in science and technology.
“My daughter was at the stage of selecting her upper-school subjects and I asked her whether she might be interested in looking at IT pathways,” Penney said.
“I was surprised that the possibility of working in the field hadn’t even crossed her mind. It got me thinking about how we could help support greater diversity in STEM careers through the work we’re doing at Fiona Stanley Hospital.”
Penney soon joined forces with Kate Langdale, senior service delivery manager at Serco’s ICT partner BT. After conversations with female colleagues and leaders in ICT, they uncovered a common theme.
“None of the women we spoke to set out to have a career in this field; they had come into the profession almost by accident,” Langdale said.
“We spoke about how we could help the gender balance and two things became clear: better mentoring and support of women already working in the industry and understanding what might be inhibiting girls in school from thinking of a career in this field.”
Penrhos College teacher and STEM specialist, Hannah Fay, said students were excited to see first-hand they type of careers that their studies in STEM could lead to.
“It’s an important initiative because it gives students the opportunity to learn about new developments in science and technology and how they are being applied in a practical setting,” Fay said.
“It’s also great for the students to hear from women who have successfully navigated careers in the field. Their stories can be a powerful teaching tool.”