“History has unfortunately let girls down in offering opportunities that men have had. It is important that we now encourage girls to explore STEM related fields”, says Mia one of three young women who have embarked on a three-month STEM Volunteer Leadership Placement supported by the Johnson and Johnson Foundation.
The sentiment is shared by all three young women on placement, from different parts of the world, who are currently at Sangam, one of five WAGGGS World Centres, as we develop our first ever STEM Discovery Day activities. The project is a key part of our growing work to inspire, support and encourage girls and young women around the world to pursue STEM education and careers where they are still underrepresented, and to make their voices heard in challenging the existing barriers and stigmas attached to STEM.
Historically, women have not had the same opportunities as men when it comes to access and participation in STEM. Social and systemic issues create barriers to participation in STEM, including the culture and climate of STEM educational programs and workplaces. “Lack of women’s representation in STEM fields is impacting other areas as well. We have the potential but we are missing the resources needed to excel and make a difference”, says Veronica who is an engineer by educational background and one of the young women on the STEM Volunteer Leadership Placement.
Advancing women’s participation in STEM curriculums across the globe is the key to creating equitable, inclusive and welcoming workplaces and leading to systemic change. Women can not only bring new perspectives, ideas, research methods and approaches to STEM education but also serve as role models in their classrooms, communities and societies.
Reflecting on the opportunity of being one of the three STEM volunteers, Ny Fitia says, “I want to encourage girls to discover STEM fields and break conventional stereotypes. I want women to see my participation as an inspiration to do better.” There is huge evidence to showcase how girls and women are systematically denied opportunities in science and math, limiting their access, training and opportunities to go into these fields as adults. Women make up only 34% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and men vastly outnumber women majoring in most STEM fields in college. The gender gaps are particularly high in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, like computer science and engineering.
The STEM Volunteer Leadership Placement aims to address these shocking statistics and seek to turn the infinite opportunities that are currently not being harnessed into a stepping stone for women to go out in the world and make a difference.
The girl led STEM Discovery Day content being developed at Sangam will then be delivered to visiting Girl Guides and Girl Scouts at the World Centre, and to local community partners in the Pune area.
Giving young girls and women equal opportunities is the need of the hour. It will define not only the future of science but also the shape our nations and world at large. The time to take the leap is NOW!