Royal Institution: #GirlsInSTEM

Can you keep up? No, I can’t either- but it turns out the Stemettes can. And they can just do it better. On Thursday 28th January they teamed up with Accenture to roll-out STEM events for teenage girls across the UK, reaching 1,800 girls in Gateshead, London, Dublin, Edinburgh and Manchester. The agenda is ridiculous: iPad based Hakitzu hackathons, panel discussions, innovation hubs, engineering challenges, construction challenges, cryptography, experiments with liquid nitrogen, 3D printing and the mandatory Stemettes lunch and snack breaks. There were bungeeing barbies, coding with Raspberry Pis and virtual reality headsets (from Framestore no less!)

I spent the morning peacefully in the lab, watching a very competent engineer install a piece of kit, then crossed town to check out their London event. The London venue welcomed 256 girls from schools across the South East. I met teenagers who’d come from Suffolk, whole classes from Walthamstow and a few who’d just jumped on the bus from Hammersmith. The impressive Faraday Lecture Theatre was not only a place to build new friendships, but also one where these students felt lucky and celebrated- like being a woman in science may not be that bad after all. The perfectly constructed ice-breaking sessions allowed the girls to quieter girls to meet their new STEM networks- they had to find groups of 4, 5, 7 and 2, then name things they had in common, come up with STEM businesses and count how many languages between them they could count to ten in (one group could manage 13!!).

Over the day, the London event saw 4 panel discussions of 3-4 STEM professionals. My my do the Stemettes have an incredible contact list (and excellent PR)- amongst the panelists were computer game designers, the CEO of Royal Mail, civil servants, climate scientists, media engineers, all loaded with career advice for young women entering science. The one thing the panelists had in common was a firm grounding, or very big appreciation of, scientific education. They all celebrated creativity, confidence, commitment and the ability to take risks. Amidst copies of the Journal of Chemical Physics from the 1930s these girls heard the real-life science stories of some of the UK’s finest professionals.

The Stemettes are a collective who know their market: these girls will not fall for science and tech circuses or academic lectures in stuffy halls from old, fat, white, male academics. If one of their A-level choices is going to be a STEM subject, we’ll have to try a bit harder than that.

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