Inspiring Hunter girls to be STEM women
RDA Hunter’s ME Program, backed by the Department of Defence and created in the Hunter region to expand and diversify the Hunter’s defence industry workforce as well as the cohort studying science, technology engineering and maths (STEM) in preparation for defence careers, has been quietly making inroads.
“We have seen a marked increase in the participation of girls in STEM subjects at our partner high schools.
Of note is the number of girls that have enrolled in Engineering Studies in 2018.” said RDA Hunter’s STEM Workforce Manager, Rick Evans.
“These results reflect the programs we’re currently implementing. Programs like Tech Girls are SuperHeroes and sheflies that have been specifically designed by professional ‘STEM women’ to inspire girls to elect STEM subjects and better understand the career opportunities it opens up for them.” continued Mr Evans.
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Futurist and founder of the Tech Girls are SuperHeroes program, Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen works to build the STEM skills and confidence of girls.
“There’s no doubt that IT is a male dominated field, globally. After years of being one of only a handful of women in the sector, I asked myself why?,” said Dr Beekhuyzen.
“Like any other field, it’s an area that anybody can build skills in and the job opportunities are huge and growing all the time. So why don’t girls consider it as a career?
“The evidence told me that girls opt out of STEM at 6 years old – in part due to a lack of visible female role models but also a lack of understanding of what STEM professionals do. And that’s how the Tech Girls Movement began.
“I’m passionate about promoting positive female STEM role models (if you can’t see it you can’t be it!) as well as giving girls access to technology and programs to help build their skills and confidence. So, I work through the Tech Girls Movement to present women with STEM jobs as mentors and ‘superheroes’.
“We also inspire young women to solve important community problems with technology skills and business acumen through our annual online Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero competition.” continued Dr Beekhuyzen.
And this is the area RDA Hunter’s ME Program has recently engaged with the Tech Girls Movement, implementing its Entrepreneurship in a Day Program with four Hunter high schools in May 2018.
Tomaree High School year 10 students Bethany Phillips and Doeun Kim participated in the session.
“The Tech Girls are Superheroes program was a great experience. The independence to work in small groups without step-by-step instruction was awesome. The all-girls format was something different for us but we loved it – we felt comfortable sharing our ideas and speaking freely.
“In our science and tech projects, it’s normally the boys who take the lead – we use their ideas and they project-manage but this activity was really different. It was a challenge because we weren’t used to backing our own ideas but we felt more invested and really wanted it to succeed because it was our work.
“Seeing women like Dr Beekhuyzen who are really smart and who have taken their interest in science subjects and turned it into a job is inspiring. It’s opened our eyes, a bit, to what’s possible.” Bethany and Doeun continued.
– Kate O’Mara
Author: Kate O’Mara
Based in the Hunter region of NSW, I’m a freelance project director and communications specialist with a background in regional development.