PeopleLikeMe-logo-small(1)_300_300_resizedToday I went to the launch of WISE’s new initiative/ resource pack, ‘People Like Me’. The WISE campaign are doing so much right it’s hard to express in words… and almost impossible for a person like me (that’s someone who still asks her Dad almost every clue in the G2 crossword..).

Steph McGovern was chairing the launch and panel discussion. Steph is super approachable, incredibly switched on, the business presenter for the BBC breakfast and an award winning engineer. Steph’s got A-Levels in Maths and Physics, she’s worked at Black and Decker, did some work experience at the BBC and then produced Radio 4’s financial news. Steph champions UK business and skills and has great industrial insight after visited over 500 British companies. She’s hearing more and more that the graduates these places are employing just don’t have the skills the organisations are looking for- but thinks that studying science and engineering can set you apart. There was emphasis on positivity throughout the launch- let’s stop promoting depressing facts and figures and start celebrating how sensational people like Steph are..- and minimal government criticism. Steph did speak about her experience representing the UK at the 43rd World Skill’s Championship in São Paulo. The World Skills Championship celebrates weird, wanted and wonderful skills of people from all across the globe, from heavy vehicle maintenance to plumbing and heating or welding. If you win for South Korea, you get £1,000 a month for the rest of your life, a house and a car. Brazil will pay for your university education. America? Lunch in the White House with the Obamas. Steph was amazed at the UK’s offering- some sandwiches at the House of Lords with Theo Paphitis and the Apprenticeships’ Advisor. As a country, we don’t only need to excite new talent into the STEM job market- we need to nurture the talent that’s already there.

Helen Wollaston, the director of the WISE campaign, told us some good news: in one year women in STEM careers has increased to 14 %. That’s 100,000 more than last year- with 63,000 entering IT and 12,000 entering engineering.  Helen highlighted lots of reasons we should be positive about our roles as female scientists- but also some shocking stats. Out of the 5,500 students who took A-Level computing last year, only 500 were girls. On the weekend Glassdoor announced the most popular place to work was Facebook, and the majority of the top 50 were in technology and business.

Professor Averil MacDonald launched #PeopleLikeMe as part one of a world take over. Whilst medicine and biology attract 65 % women, physics hasn’t reached more than 20 % in 30 years. Whilst they’re not much better, Germany attracts 17 % and Latvia 23 %. It’s not that women don’t like STEM, it’s that women in the UK don’t like working in STEM. So what’s the UK doing wrong?

Professor MacDonald thinks it’s partly about terminology and organisational psychology. How are we, the scientists, explain what we do and who we are? Are we using adjectives that girls recognise like ‘curious’ and ‘creative’ or are we using super technical verbs that describe our jobs and activities? And how’s it coming across to the youngest students who are still making up their minds about STEM and how it fits in with their future? The app and resource pack lets girls decided their own future without being afraid of being labelled a geek or nerd. The students choose 12 adjectives, which then map them to different characteristics and career choices. We need to show girls and young women that people like them are happy in science.

The #PeopleLikeMe app was designed and created in two days by a duo of talented apprentices from Barclays. The game was designed by Laura Philebrown, a UI designer with a BTEC and a career at an investment bank. Jamie Edge, an apprentice, is 18, has never been to university and is a full time iOS developer at Barclays. He’s super modest, hyper intelligent and has no student debt looming over his code.

There was a super interesting panel discussion and Q&A, where lots of girls in STEM points were raised and discussed by probably the most insightful people in the country at the moment. The panel was made up of Lucy Collins, a naval architect at the ministry of defence (and president of the WISE Young Women’s Board), Katherine Mathieson, Director of Programmes at the British Science Association and Daryl Moth, Science Director of Learning at Wildern School in Southampton. Lucy knew she wanted to be an engineer aged 11, after looking up architecture in a dictionary and only seeing ‘interior design’. Lucy started off wanting to design the structures themselves- then realised how many other things you could do with engineering.

Mums are big barriers to their daughter’s success in STEM: they don’t want their daughters to be unhappy or struggle. I can totally relate to this issue: my mom is an amazing inspiration to me as a scientist, but she’s my mom, and can’t bear to see me unhappy or exhausted.

Stop pressurising people to choose one job they do when they grow up. We’re going to do 14/15 jobs in our lives, and the world’s gone tech crazy: how many career doors do you close by not choosing triple science?

Scientists and engineers have to get into the public domain and promote what they’re doing: it is not a teacher’s job!

It’s incredibly difficult to find time in a school timetable or money in a school budget. Steph McGovern can’t get in to talk about businesses and the students can’t get out for days at industry.

Mentors and Champions are different things and are all valuable. People can reach out to experienced career ‘champions’ and mentors for support. This year AstraZeneca launched a ‘STEM student of the year‘ and 6 of the 9 finalists were women. All of them had a mentor they turned to for advice.

STEM + a language = career gold dust. 

We don’t only need more women in science, we need more men in languages and arts. Seriously- it’s holding the UK economy back.
Gosh! physics and engineering are the glamour subjects” – Computing is where we’re really going wrong. Carrie Anne Philbin from Raspberry_Pi is certified by Google, has a computing book for teenagers and a YouTube series for teenage girls.  Just..wow.

After the Q&A there was a networking lunch in the beautiful media museum in Bradford. The staff were incredibly polite and the chat was great- I could barely speak at the end and 7 hours later I’m still buzzing with ideas and excitement. As a new member of the WISE Young Women’s Board we were had our first ‘pre-‘ meeting. There were women from Intel, British Sugar, Halliburton, Rolls Royce, the MoD… and Jess from a clean room in a basement in SW7.

Helen Wollaston from introduced us to what WISE is about, how they get their money and what their plans are. The WISE motto is “from classroom to boardroom”, and the WYWB acts to prepare women for the boardrooms of the future. WISE are signing up 5 companies a month to their initiatives, who’ll all follow The Ten Steps to a more diverse workforce. They need young voices for WISE in the media, and they need fresh ideas to excite young minds. I can tell I’m going to have a brilliant year being part of the WYWB. Watch this space!

My bio for People Like Me is here.. But I’m going to have to beef up my CV a bit to compare to these young women!

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