The gender gap in the science and tech industries is clear: despite making up half of the workforce, women hold only 26% of jobs in STEM industries. The good news is that the number of women entering STEM careers is increasing year-on-year, and predictions forecast almost 30% of core-STEM roles will be held by women by 2030; but while this shows promise – building influence no doubt takes time. Creating the future of innovation requires attracting and retaining all great minds.
With Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO of Stemettes and Trustee at The Institute for the Future of Work, we explore what can be done to encourage more girls into STEAM subjects.
Watch Anne-Marie’s video here:
Increase Female Visibility and Foster Inclusive Environments
The impact of female representation and visibility in male-majority industries shouldn’t be underestimated in helping to close the gender gap.
Attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in America with 3,500 other women was transformative for Anne-Marie. “It was a life-changing experience to be with so many women engaging with technology and also engaging with each other,” she says.
“It shocked me into realising I’d never been in a female-majority technical environment. Often when you feel like you’re the only or like you’re in the minority, to be in a space where you’re the majority can be very, very life-affirming.”
Become a Role Model and Inspire Young People to Close the Gender Gap
Female role models have been shown to have a tremendous impact on young girls.
Positive role models boost young people’s motivation by modelling a guide to achieving success based on: an ability to inspire others, a clear set of values, a commitment to community, an acceptance of others, and an ability to overcome obstacles.
If you’re a teacher, consider specialising in STEAM and continually offer examples of women in STEAM careers.
Highlighting successes – like that of Katherine Johnson, the pioneering mathematician who featured in the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures for her work at NASA during the space race – helps to build recognition and familiarity of inspirational women to aspire towards.
Motivate creativity beyond art
While the ‘A’ in STEAM stands for arts, creativity is something that underpins every element of STEAM.
A combined-subject approach is one-way teachers can get creative with teaching. For example, incorporating topics like engineering and maths into activities that children have already shown an interest in such as music, or arts and crafts is an excellent way to boost engagement and increase confidence.
Through encouraging exploration of an individual’s interests, we can close the gender gap and help to foster creative problem-solving skills – something that sparked Anne-Marie’s interest in tech from a young age.
She says: “STEAM enabled me to express creativity in my way. Rather than picking up a paintbrush, for me, it was picking up a keyboard and making something in HTML; creating something that looked good, served a purpose and solved problems.”
Support teachers with implementing STEAM
As the first access point to STEAM learning for many children, teachers need the knowledge to help foster 21st-century skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. The pressures of daily workload can make it tricky to keep up with the latest guidance.
“STEAM moves so quickly,” Anne-Marie says. “There’s so much that’s new; teacher training itself can’t possibly cut it.
“As part of RM Education, TTS is helping boost that and ensure that teachers can ably prepare the next generation of young people for what comes next for innovation and creativity.
“STEAM is the future; it is the way forward. It’s about creativity; it’s about collaboration. It is also about solving problems, altruism and helping people. I’m so very, very passionate about helping underserved and historically excluded groups engage in STEAM and I’m very excited to be a part of this.”