Talking science to girls
By Melina Gillespie
Women represent only a quarter of the STEM workforce, and hold less than a fifth of senior research positions in Australian universities and research institutes.
This is according to the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, and the website proclaims: “We need a concerted, national effort to overcome the cultural, institutional and organisational factors that discourage girls and women from studying STEM”.
New Zealand statistics show a similar story, reports Kate Hannah, who presented at the recent SCANZ conference on new ways of thinking about ‘the problem with girls’ in science. Kate is the executive manager of Te Pūnaha Matatini, one of New Zealand’s Centres of Research Excellence.
Kate has previously expanded on why it was important to have more women working in STEM: “Because a science system that better reflects the world will be better at working with the world to mitigate against the critical issues of our time. … Science and technology are too important to our shared future for the same people to keep on having the same ideas.”
Image: The inaugural cover of Kazoo, ‘a feminist magazine for girls who love science and climbing trees’.
So how do we go about encouraging more girls into science?
The National Innovation and Science Agenda suggests encouraging greater gender equity in STEM-based organisations and industries, and highlighting amazing stories of Australia’s successful female innovators and entrepreneurs.
But as more and more resources are becoming available to promote science to girls, we can all be better equipped to encourage girls to dive into the world of science. Tips include:
- encourage their natural curiosity about the world
- help build their confidence to do well in STEM at school
- find learning opportunities in science, outside of the school room
- identify role models
- help them to learn about the different and exciting fields of STEM.
Perhaps what we need to do at a basic level is be more aware, and ensure our communication with young girls includes the language of science.
PBS Parents and the Australian Government also have resources for encouraging girls into STEM.