Womens Engineering Society: Inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders



This project has started!  View the Sparxx website here: http://www.sparxx.org.uk/

Overview: This is a mechanism to provide ongoing encouragement for girls who express an interest in STEM and seeks to address the STEM opt out rate for girls during the critical teenage years, through a targeted stream of communication.

Rationale: There is a lot of effort and resourcing being put into bringing excellent engineering experiences to school students, and all evidence suggests that girls like these enrichment activities as much as boys do. What is missing thereafter however - when the spaghetti bridges and Stixx machines have been cleared away - is an ongoing engagement with the girls that have shown an interest and an aptitude for STEM, which continues to nudge them in the direction of a STEM career. At the moment what happens is they enjoy the STEM activity but just don't associate this with a career choice - they just don't realise that it is an option for THEM. What we effectively do is provide the spark but don't provide the oxygen for the fire to light and grow.

Proposal: What we are proposing is a mechanism to 'bridge the gap' (or fan the fire, to continue with the fire analogy) between the STEM enrichment activity and the point at which they are choosing a career, by means of some timely nudges in the right direction to keep them on track. Sparks Steering Group at Alton School

So how would it work? Basically we would 'enrol' the girls who express a particular interest in STEM, and their schools, into a scheme which would feed them with encouragement and information through a variety of social media appropriate to their age. We would provide them with information and advice on careers, competitions, open days or visits, exhibitions or shows, role models, summer schools, home activities, great engineering projects, and job or educational opportunities. This would provide the encouragement that boys get naturally from parents, schools, and society as a whole when they express an interet in engineering, but often girls miss out on (and in many cases they are discouraged). It is often only when girls have a family member who is an engineer that they receive the encouragement that is necessary to succeed in this (still) non-traditional role. What we are proposing would be the means of providing the support and encouragement to help them progress in the longer term towards a career in STEM.

We are not planning to provide new content or any new activities, but instead to compile activities and information provided by other groups and organisations and just feed this to the girls in a way which interests them and allows them to get used to the idea that a career in engineering is a real possibility for THEM. (Although the way we would do this still needs to be scoped - preferably by somebody young!)

This project needs to be done in partnership with other organisations, and this is key to ensuring that we 1851 Logoget information that is current, up-to-date, all inclusive and appropriate. It is a great way of nurturing our next generation of engineering talent.

We are gratetful for the support and encouragement of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 in allowing us to start this project.

The new website is coming soon at www.sparxx.org.uk. Follow us on twitter @girlsparxx

Contact WES CEO on ceo@wes.org.uk or sparxx@wes.org.uk for further information.

Conversation from the House of Commons, 27 October 2014:

Stephen McPartland (Stevenage, Conservative)
What steps the Government have taken to improve participation rates of female pupils taking STEM subjects.
Nicky Morgan (The Secretary of State for Education; Loughborough, Conservative)
Both of my ministerial roles give me a personal passion about this issue. As a result of our reforms to GCSEs, this year a record proportion of pupils entered the science EBacc subjects—68.7%—and girls perform even better than boys thanks to excellent teaching, but we want to continue to make progress, which is why the Government are supporting the “Your Life” campaign, which will change young people’s perceptions of where maths and science can take them.
Stephen McPartland (Stevenage, Conservative)
I am glad that the Women’s Engineering Society is based in Stevenage. The WES and I are concerned that, although young women enjoy science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, they do not associate them with a career choice. Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming “Sparxx”, the new WES initiative designed to encourage young women to turn that interest in STEM subjects into a career choice in engineering?
Nicky Morgan (The Secretary of State for Education; Loughborough, Conservative)
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We welcome all initiatives that aspire to get more girls into careers such as engineering. I entirely welcome the “Sparxx” initiative, which the WES, based in Stevenage, has launched. Working with more than 200 partners from the UK’s best-known businesses and educators, and with the support of organisations such as WES, our “Your Life” campaign will promote STEM subjects leading to a wide range of career options.
Peter Luff (Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)
My right hon. Friend will be aware that, in the UK, we have the lowest participation rate of women in engineering of any country in the European Union. She welcomes “Sparxx” and “Your Life” but, in that context, will she welcome tomorrow’s engineers week, which is next week? It aims to change perceptions of engineering, particularly among young ladies in the 11 to 14 age group?
Nicky Morgan (The Secretary of State for Education; Loughborough, Conservative)
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am happy to add my support to the national engineers week next week. As I said at a recent event, I understand that we need 83,000 more engineers every year for the next 10 years, and they cannot all be men.


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