The Big Idea: STEM, in a day, with the RSA
This is a guest blog from Anne-Marie Imafidon. Anne-Marie is a Fellow who works in technology at an investment bank and has spent the past 15 months running a social enterprise alongside her main job. She was the UK IT Young Professional of the Year in 2013 and recently won the UnLtd Innovation Award for work on the ‘Stemettes’ which encourages young women to get involved with STEM. She received RSA Catalyst funding in April.
We’re facing a skills shortage across the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries and have what seems like a shrinking minority of females in what is an important industry for our economy. [WISE 2013]
We’ve helped girls meet a diverse set of women working across a diversity of roles in STEM and in doing so have helped break stereotypes
Many have documented the problems across STEM at all levels and made their recommendations for what should be done (see the Through Both Eyes report). Since its launch in February 2013, the Stemettes project has given positive STEM experiences featuring STEM females ‘Big Stemettes’ to over 1100 girls across the UK with our unique brand of passionate, fun & creative panel events, hackathons, workshops and one exhibition.
We’ve helped girls meet a diverse set of women working across a diversity of roles in STEM and in doing so have helped break stereotypes, misconceptions and misplaced advice on what STEM careers are like and who can/should do them.
The RSA Catalyst funding that we’ve been awarded is helping us to kickstart science, engineering & maths ‘STEM in a Day’ workshops for girls and school groups which mirror the technology provision we’ve been able to provide with support from Accenture.
In these workshops we typically have ten girls across two year groups join ten girls from another school nearby across the same two year groups at a STEM company’s offices. They spend the day learning the basics of their trade and about the company’s activities & roles from women at the company. They then embark on a tour of the facilities and complete the day working on a challenge set by the company, judged by senior women at the company. We of course provide lots of food, refreshments and fun to keep the day moving. The girls leave with a great sense of what it takes to be a Stemette, and what it might be like to work in STEM (including work travel trips, managing hobbies & life outside of work and the quality of toilet facilities).
With the funding we’ve received from the RSA we’ve already run a successful workshop at Medical Physics company Elekta who build the linear accelerators used in radiotherapy. Girls loved seeing the factory space where the machines were built and seeing the ways the machines are used in hospitals – inclusive of face moulds and treatment methods. They then presented their ideas for Patient Care Apps (to form part of the treatment offering) to heads of department at the company.
The schools involved have asked for more students to be allowed to visit – as a lot of what Elekta does aligns well with the A-level Physic syllabus – and we’ve scheduled in some more sessions for other schools in the South East. A full gallery is up on our Flickr page.
The next step of our Catalyst project relies on the help of enthused RSA Fellows (such as Fellows who have taken the time to read to the end of this blog) to call on the engineering, scientific and mathematical companies that they have influence on to open their doors to little Stemettes and to offer the same experience. We’ll take a day at a time and will see how, as provision grows we can get better at measuring impact and making this a sustainable model. If you know a secondary school (or girl) who might be interested, ask them to get in touch too.
Thanks to RSA Catalyst for funding us and Elekta for being the first – here’s to many more!
Anne-Marie Imafidon FRSA
To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture through grants, expertise and crowdfunding visit our Catalyst webpage