How to Engage Girls in STEM
28 October 2015
The theme of the recent WISE KSE Event kindly hosted by RAF Cranwell on the 28/10/15 was ’How to Engage Girls in STEM’. We had a broad range of attendees, from corporate members to educational organisations; the range of attendees provided interesting perspectives on approaches to engaging more girls in STEM.
The event was opened by Helen Wollaston, Chief Executive of WISE, and Squadron Leader Glynis Dean from the RAF. Squadron Leader Dean explained that the RAF faces similar challenges to other small businesses with regards to diversity. Currently 13% of recruits are female, and the target is 20% by 2020.
The RAF targets under-represented groups in an effort to attract a more diverse workforce. They have been running residential weeks for girls in collaboration with WISE since 2008 which have been a great success; this year, the residential was hugely oversubscribed. The residential nature of the course allows girls to learn engineering skills whilst fully immersing themselves in the RAF environment.
The initial RAF WISE week for girls has been adapted by the RAF to target a range of under-represented groups - 9 residential weeks have now been established and are run each year. These sessions include working with Generating Genius project to provide a residential course for BAME (Black and Minority Ethic) young men and women, and Avionics weeks for Air Cadets. Sqdn Ldr Dean highlighted that choosing the right partners and forming collaborations has been key to their success.
Jill Collins from Sheffield Hallam University is also part of WiSET, and has been involved in the evaluation of the impact of WISE RAF residential weeks for girls. Throughout the duration of the residential, the girls are required to complete a workbook. This involves recording their activities, as well as their thoughts and feelings during the course. There are also sections which help the girls to think about how they might apply skills they have learned during the course to build a CV. Notably, feedback suggests that the girls are still returning back to this workbook for reflection and to help them to build CVs up to 3 years following the course itself.
Evaluation questionnaires are completed by the girls at the beginning and end of the course. Long term assessment of the impact of attending the WISE RAF residential was undertaken. The feedback from the course has been overwhelmingly positive, and 63% of girls had continued to keep STEM options open, either by undertaking A Levels in STEM subjects or Apprenticeships in STEM.
Stephanie Anforth described the success which BAE systems have achieved with recruiting a more diverse workforce - 17% of 720 apprentices at BAE systems this year are female. BAE systems have been running an interactive roadshow for 10 years which has now been seen by more than 265,000 school pupils. Initially the roadshows were based on engineering, but they have since expanded to include maths and physics. The roadshows can be requested by schools and are free of charge. The roadshows target schools in areas which are underrepresented in the STEM sector, including schools with a high uptake of free school meals. Research suggests that 70% of applicants to BAE systems’ apprenticeship scheme have seen the interactive roadshow.
The overwhelming message of the session was that all companies are facing the same challenges and so must work together to try to find a solution.
People Like Me
Following the KSE, WISE coordinated an interactive People Like Me session with the girls who were undertaking the RAF residential week for girls. People Like Me is a revolutionary approach to engaging girls with careers in STEM. Recent research suggests that girls engage more with careers in STEM if they are able to relate to the personality of individuals in those job roles. People Like Me works by allowing the girls to describe themselves using adjectives, personality types are then suggested, and job roles are suggested which people like them are happy and successful working in. Having completed the People Like Me quiz themselves, the attendees of the KSE were then able to discuss this with the girls and further inspire them to consider careers in STEM.
WISE’s People Like Me resources are available to download here.
WISE are also coordinating individual training sessions for teachers, STEM ambassadors and others working with young people wishing to be supported in the delivery of the People Like me resources. If you are interested in People Like Me training, please visit this page for more information and to book your tickets.