Live STEM event on International Women’s Day

A new education project to challenge gender stereotypes was launched at Withington today. To mark International Women’s Day (IWD) 2016, engineering company Siemens introduced the SeeWomen (Girls in STEM) project, which aims to inspire and motivate young girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

An exciting, interactive show was presented by Fran Scott in association with the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) to an audience of Year 9 girls from WGS and nearby state and independent secondary schools.

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With the aid of some spectacular pyrotechnics, Ms Scott’s curriculum-linked stage show explored modern women’s ground-breaking contributions to science, technology and engineering, taking the audience on a journey into the world of STEM. The show was designed to provide thought-provoking activities and to help build confidence and motivate girls to set future goals and aspirations.

Ms Scott encouraged the audience of Year 9 girls to “grow enough confidence to grab your opportunities” and also, when thinking about future careers, “to consider not what you want to be, but to think about the three things that make you happy and find a path that fits that mould.”

Some ideas from the audience on what would make them happy were: ‘helping people’, ‘working with people as part of a team’ and ‘making a lot of money’.

Fran Scott, who has performed science demonstrations on the hit CBBC show, Absolute Genius with Dick and Dom, holds the project close to her heart. “I know only too well how young women can be deterred from studying STEM subjects and from achieving their full potential. We’ve worked hard to ensure this event will not only show young women the amazing career opportunities that lie out there in the STEM world, but through self-questioning and myth-dispelling tasks we aim to give them the confidence, empowerment and curiosity to pursue and ultimately achieve their professional goals,” Fran said.

SeeWomen is one of many resources for education available through Siemens Education, along with the Curiosity Project, a three-year programme designed to engage young people in considering a STEM career.

The UK has a strong heritage in engineering but not enough young people – especially girls – are choosing a STEM study path that could lead to becoming an engineer. There is now a huge skills gap and by 2022 the UK will need an additional 1.82 million people with engineering skills.

Maria Ferraro, Chief Financial Officer at Siemens plc, who officially launched the SeeWomen project in Withington’s Arts Centre, believes that Siemens’ work in STEM education will help to address the critical gender imbalance and the risk of having too few qualified engineers.
“Siemens’ SeeWomen project is a positive drive to show young girls that women make great engineers and scientists. SeeWomen aims to bust the myth that STEM careers are difficult, boring and just for boys,” she said.

As one of the UK’s leading technology companies Siemens is committed to nurturing and building a pipeline of STEM talent to inspire a new generation of engineers and shrink the skills gap. Encouraging and fostering curiosity in young girls to think positively about their potential in STEM careers early can help challenge misconceptions about the subjects.

Caroline Jordan, President of the Girls’ Schools Association, said about GSA’s involvement in the project, “Girls who attend Girls’ Schools Association schools are significantly more likely to study STEM A Levels, but nevertheless they tend to pursue careers in medicine rather than engineering. So we’re delighted to be partnering with Siemens in this exciting initiative and were pleased to invite girls from neighbouring state and independent schools to join us in learning about the many ways they can make a difference to the world through engineering and science.”

Withington’s Headmistress, Mrs Sue Marks, said about hosting the SeeWomen launch event, “With a significant percentage of our girls opting to study STEM subjects at A-Level, and many later going on to pursue successful careers in related fields, we are delighted to have been invited to host this inaugural event. Our young women are encouraged to follow their own academic passions here, and there are no gender stereotypes – but we appreciate that not all girls have the same opportunities and we very much hope that the SeeWomen programme will help to raise awareness nationally of the wealth of wonderful options that exist in the workplace for women with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.”

When Withington opened its doors in 1890, its founders’ original vision was that girls should have access to the same education as boys and that the sciences should form a key part of the curriculum. “That ethos remains at the heart of our school today and we are extremely proud of our girls’ ongoing success in the STEM subjects,” added Mrs Marks.

SeeWomen will be rolled out around the UK in collaboration with the GSA. For the next phase of the project, the stage show is to be adapted for classroom-ready workshops and a series of smaller showcase presentations for girls and young women to learn more about careers in STEM. The shows will be delivered in schools around the UK by a mix of STEM ambassadors from Siemens and the GSA.