National project to address STEM gender gap
A new project aims to close the gender gap in STEM subjects in primary and secondary schools. Three universities will work together to build a national community of girls, teachers, school outreach practitioners and industry.
The University of Adelaide, RMIT University (RMIT) and University of Technology Sydney (UTS) will collaborate on a national Women in STEM (WiSTEM) outreach program to bring together and share best practice. The project received a grant of $995,664 from the Federal Government’s Department of Industry, Science and Resources. It is one of only 17 projects that received funding in the latest round of the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship (WiSE) programme.
The University of Adelaide’s Professor Katrina Falkner is Executive Dean of the Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology. She has been named as a top 100 innovator in computer science education. Her work directly addresses inequities in access to technology and aims to build a fairer Australia.
“This project will collate best practice across the three universities for impactful, sustainable and scalable engagement across the WiSTEM pipeline,” she said.
“The three universities are leaders in delivering multi-touchpoint school outreach with embedded evaluation reaching students (primary/secondary) and their key influencers (families/educators).
“The programs incorporate diverse role models and industry mentors including gender, location, LGBTQIA+ and socioeconomic status.”
International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated on Saturday 11 February.
Australia’s STEM-skilled workforce has a disproportionate under-representation of women compared to other industries. Only 16 per cent of Australia’s stem-skilled workforce are women, whereas the broader Australian workforce has close to 50 per cent female participation.
“This project will collate best practice across the three universities for impactful, sustainable and scalable engagement across the Women in STEM pipeline."The University of Adelaide’s Professor Katrina Falkner, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology.
The key activities of the project are:
- Collaboratively develop, document and freely share a multi-touchpoint STEM school outreach best practice and implementation strategy. The strategy will enable national scaling of impactful and evaluated outreach programming to address the long-term change needed in the STEM gender gap
- Build teacher capacity by developing inclusive STEM teaching professional development and TeachMeets to promote long-term change. Existing resources will be leveraged for further implementation such as the Girls in STEM toolkit, Future You campaign, and Academy of Enterprising Girls.
- Celebrate National Women in STEM Day, with follow-up STEM activities for families and local communities for multiple touch-point interaction.
- Build a national network of STEM school outreach practitioners, through a national community of practice.
As this project grows organically, the national shift of WiSTEM outreach programs adopting best practice approaches with evidenced impact evaluation will deliver the long term systemic and cultural change needed.
“This project provides the opportunity for three well known universities to lead by example and support further STEM engagement despite limited resourcing nationally,” said Professor Falkner.
Crispin Savage, Manager, Media and News, The University of Adelaide.
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