Across Australia, women are underrepresented in engineering and IT at all levels. These gaps have not shifted over the past two decades. The 2019 Women in STEM Decadal Plan, published by the Australian Academy of Science, identified barriers to participation as occurring from early school years, with teachers, families and socio-cultural factors as key influencers.
The STEM x program vision, devised by Women in Engineering and IT at UTS in response to the Decadal Plan, is that STEM study and career journeys should not be limited by gender. Our research-based analysis shows that intervening early has the greatest long-term impact on gender equity, particularly among schools in less advantaged areas.
This presentation will outline how the project’s aim to increase girls’ confidence, interest and awareness in STEM studies in the short term, and participation in STEM careers in the long-term, is showing promising early outcomes.
Our STEM x outreach model was revised in 2019 to address early barriers to participation. The focus shifted to multiple interactions in a 4- to 8-week in-curriculum, in-classroom program involving university students and industry mentors as facilitators. As a result, our primary and high school programs centre around gender-inclusive STEM project-learning involving students, teachers, and families as key stakeholders.
We use design thinking processes that involve educational technologies to ideate solutions to real-world challenges self-identified by students, who then build their project solution prototypes. Our focus on female students, their school and wider community that surrounds them, building of long-term teacher capacity and intervening early from primary school onwards is a unique model that is a sector leader in Australia.
This presentation will use three years of data from 2019 to map the early impacts of our program delivery. Results will be discussed from matched participant pre- and post-activity surveys, showing which quantitative areas show statistically significant changes. Qualitative data that outline changes in self perceptions among female participants will also be discussed.
Although our aim is longitudinal impact, our evaluation embedded into the program is already starting to see significant increased interest and confidence among female students. This presentation will outline the key features of the STEM x program, underlining its innovative features and mapping out future developments. There will be a discussion on how to address teacher confidence through professional development including removing unconscious bias in the classroom and encouraging girls to opt-in to further STEM opportunities, as well as engaging parents through improved communication strategies.
Holmes K, Gore J, Smith M and Lloyd A (2018) ‘An integrated analysis of school students’ aspirations for STEM careers: which student and school factors are most predictive?’, International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 16(4), 655–675.
Olsson M and Martiny SE (2018) ‘Does exposure to counterstereotypical role models influence girls’ and women’s gender stereotypes and career choices? A review of social psychological research’, Frontiers in Psychology, 9:2264.
- Marco Angelini, University of Technology Sydney
- Amelia Giugni, University of Technology Sydney