Empower girls in STEM: Introduce them to inspiring women in STEM

February 11 is celebrated as International Science Day for women and girls. This special day has been declared by the UN in 2015 to ensure that women and girls participate fully and equally in scientific studies.

It will be effective to strengthen gender equality and encourage girls, especially those who can be role models, to choose more STEM fields. With this thought, we planned a talk to support gender equality in the selection of STEM fields at our school. Since our school was on holiday on February 11, we had an online interview on February 18, when the school was open.

We contacted our female students who graduated from Açı High School and chose STEM fields at the university and invited them for the interview. Among our graduates, there were also those who graduated and joined the business world in addition to those who were still studying at the university. We talked about the content and goal of the talk to our female students who are studying or working in 5 different STEM fields. They gladly accepted our invitation.

The image is the author’s own –(Attribution CC-BY)

We have been holding “Science for All” meetings in our school for 4 years, in which we have included all stakeholders of our school. We invited professionals from different fields of science to these meetings and held conversations and informative meetings on different subjects. We also invited all the parents, students, teachers and employees of our school to this interview as we did in the “Science for All” meetings. Microsoft Teams made participation easier as it is an online collaboration platform. For this gathering, we published a poster to invite all parents and the stakeholders of our school.

In order to moderate the talk, we asked two female students from the 7th grade who are interested in science. Before the interview, we met with these two students and created a talk plan and content. In the presentation we prepared for the interview, we made use of Eurostat and UN statistics. We have created slides in a way to talk about the purpose of this day, statistical data, and the reasons that cause women and girls to have less presence in STEM fields. Then, we have included women scientists who have inspired the people with their studies in science throughout history. Among these scientists, we briefly mentioned scientists such as Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Canan Dağdeviren and Özlem Türeci. In order to make the talk more interactive for the participants, we added related questions about the topic to be asked and answered in the chat area.

Our graduate guests have still been studying or graduated in the fields of Medicine, Chemical Engineering, Industrial Engineering and  Mathematics. At the beginning of the conversation, our moderator girls introduced our guests. Then, they shared the purpose, presentation content, importance and statistics of the interview. They shared the reasons why women and girls are less present in STEM fields, along with the opinions of the guests on the chat screen.

Our moderators asked the following questions to our guests:

Questions:

• Which factors led you to choose STEM fields, what is your basic motivation?

• Have you been exposed to or observed gender discrimination during your university years?

• How is the ratio of men to women in your field of study? If the rate is low, what do you attribute this to?

• If there is a low rate of women in your department, how does this affect you?

• What can be done to increase the presence of women in STEM fields?

• What are the responsibilities of individuals and authorities  to increase women in STEM?

• What needs to be changed in society to increase women in STEM?

It was a very enjoyable and engaging talk. We believe that it will encourage our female students to choose STEM fields. The sharing of experiences, success stories and recommendations will be effective in future generations’ choices. Many individuals and organizations have different responsibilities to take steps to strengthen gender equality in schools and to raise awareness. We believe that the teachers’  efforts and orientation to enhance STEM  is invaluable and such organizations should be increased.

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