Trip ideas to get girls geared up for STEM

Date Posted: 09/09/2015

Pictured: Group of school girls on a computer workshop at the Big Bang Fair 2015.

Should schools be doing more to encourage girls into technical roles to close the digital skills gap?

New research suggests that the education system should do more to support and encourage girls into more technical ‘hard skill’ roles in order to help close the digital skill gap.

Women only make up 17 per cent of the UK’s tech workforce and according to e-skills UK this has been falling by 0.5 per cent each year. It also reports that there’s an average of only one girl for every 11 boys in the typical UK A-Level computing class.

Most recently, a study into the career paths of over 2,000 women working in digital across the north, by digital recruitment agency The Candidate, found that the most popular jobs for women in this sector are in marketing and social media (27 per cent), account handling roles (26 per cent), and public relations and communications (18 per cent) – all typically 'soft skill' roles. 

Just one role that required hard skills – a web developer – proved popular with the women involved in the research, with nine per cent currently filling these positions.

Brian Matthews, from The Candidate, said: “It was disappointing to see from our research that there is a real imbalance in the amount of women in soft and hard skill jobs.

“It may be that because hard skill roles, like user experience positions for example, are typically dominated by men, women are being put off. But there needs to be an equal measure of both soft and hard skills to truly help this sector thrive, and the education system has a big responsibility in providing not just training, but support to those wanting a career in the more technical side of this industry.”

With this in mind, here are five suggestions for promoting STEM subjects to your female students…

Exploring STEM for girls event

It’s ladies night, well afternoon, at the University of Sheffield on 6th April when it runs its Science, Engineering and Maths event for female pupils in Years 9 to 11.

The session will include an inspirational talk from a prominent female engineer and there will be a wide selection of exhibition stands where pupils will have the opportunity to get involved in lots of hands-on activities and demonstrations.

Hands-on coding workshops

Computer game design is one of the north east’s most important industries; and girls’ schools in the area need look no further for inspiration than the Life centre in Newcastle upon Tyne’s coding workshops, all of which meet the National Curriculum requirements for Primary students.

Life runs a number of coding workshops – from building programmes for food webs, to coding bees in ‘Beebots’.

All coding workshops support Life’s Game On 2.0 exhibition, which runs next year and promises to be one of the biggest collections of playable computer games in the world.

National Women in Engineering Day 2016

Take advantage of yet another themed day on 23rd June 2016, which has been dedicated to women in engineering.

National Women in Engineering Day was set up by the Women’s Engineering Society; its primary aim is to get the words ‘women’ and ‘engineering’ used in the same sentences.

Universities, colleges and engineering companies across the UK host events and workshops. For example, during this year’s day, Ifield Community College ran two hour workshops for year 8 and 9 girls.

The workshops included a visit from a female engineer and hands-on 'robot challenge' where students were required to design and build robots from recycling materials before competing in races.

You can find out more about next year’s events on the official NWED website.

Women in Computing – the exhibition

Of course there is a whole museum dedicated to computing, and it’s based at the home of computing and coding, Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire.

Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace were pioneers of getting women into the cradle of the digital age and the Bletchley Park site is continuing that tradition with its Women in Computing exhibition, which it hopes will inspire a new generation of young women to become computer engineers, developers, operators, entrepreneurs and more.

The Big Bang Fair

The Big Bang Fair, an event specifically designed for the UK’s budding young scientists and engineers, will be held at the NEC in Birmingham on 16th to 19th March.

It’s the perfect place to take any female students who might be thinking about a career in the STEM industries, as there will be careers information from people already working in that field, as well as demos, workshops and theatre shows.

However, Big Bang is big business now, and 2016 will see free events held across the country that your school group can get involved in. And as well as the Big Bang Near Me events, there will be the Big Bang @ School sessions taking place too. Teachers can find out more on the official Big Bang web page.

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