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Targeting more girls in STEM careers

Gender bias, both unconscious and conscious, is being challenged by the Science 50:50 program which aims to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers for girls and young women.

Aug 29, 2016, updated Aug 29, 2016
Physicist Dr Maria Parappilly who leads the SA node of the national Science 50:50 program.

Physicist Dr Maria Parappilly who leads the SA node of the national Science 50:50 program.

South Australia’s Minister for Higher Education and Skills, Dr Susan Close, has endorsed the South Australian ‘node’ of the national University of NSW Science 50:50 – Inspiring Girls into Science at Flinders University.

The launch comes as international research conducted by the OECD shows girls and boys remain deeply divided in career choices – and girls are making those choices earlier than we had previously thought.

The report showed gender bias – conscious and unconscious – among parents, teachers and employers was partly responsible, and concluded that a concerted effort by all these groups was needed to open girls’ minds to their abilities and future careers.

It also found that girls’ lack of self-confidence in their own ability in science and mathematics may be partly responsible for their under-achievement in STEM subjects.

The Science 50:50 program will include:

  • A web portal run by the STEM: Women Branching Out group to introduce and showcase Australian innovators and link aspiring girls and young women to 50:50 mentors;
  • Audio-visual resources, media contacts and online resources;
  • Links to universities, research organisations and industry;
  • Industry immersion, mentoring and networking opportunities to enable girls to get experience and a foot into scientific careers.

“I’m interested in ways we can engage girls’ interest in STEM subjects from a young age and, just as importantly, in holding their interest as they grow up to consider their career choices,” says Minister Close.

“Many future jobs will rely on a workforce with STEM skills, and I hope that programs like this will help inspire girls to enter these exciting fields.”

Flinders University senior physics lecturer Dr Maria Parappilly says Flinders is pleased to lead the Science 50:50 initiative in South Australia, building on the University of NSW Science 50:50 program.

“We want to increase the number of female students taking science subjects at school by sparking young women’s interest in STEM in a creative and engaging way,” Dr Parappilly says.

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“Young female students should not be afraid of the STEM field but instead be embracing the vast array of opportunities that it offers to them.”

UNSW Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla founded Science 50:50, which is funded through an ARC Georgina Sweet Award. She launched the SA node of Science 50:50 at Flinders at Tonsley on August 19.

Through her research, Professor Sahajwalla, who directs the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) at UNSW, has completely changed how the properties of carbon-bearing materials are understood, including graphites, plastics and rubber tyres.

Science 50:50 – Changing the Face of Science in South Australia:

  • Engages girls with science and technology via school visits and outreach programs, and will provide a clear pathway to STEM futures;
  • Facilitates industry immersion, mentoring and networking opportunities to enable girls to get experience and a foot into STEM careers;
  • Runs the Flinders Uni Aurora Photo Contest, which is open to female students in Years 11 and 12 in South Australian schools;
  • Coordinates STEM-related careers through initiatives such as its Thinker in Residence and Leader Lab programs.

For more information on Science 50:50 at Flinders, please email [email protected]

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