There is a growing need for people who are skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Ok, this is something we constantly hear. So, let’s skip this in mind. What should be done? European governments and the European Union are working on attracting and recruiting more youth to STEM study programmes: They must not only increase the numbers of STEM-trained professionals, but also increase the diversity of STEM professionals.

A major issue is that we often conceive of STEM as something difficult and depersonalized, and is carried out by (mainly) men who follow a strict protocol in a laboratory. Think about a scientist, what is the first thing that comes into your mind? Geeky, in a lab coat, lonely….But we need to make clear that conception of STEM professions is unrealistic. We have many examples. Just check this article if you want to challenge your own preconceptions. Or look at Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to be a Fields Medallist or Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta Project Scientist.

Or simply check this poster  made by @FindingAda

 

ada-lovelace-day-stem-careers-poster

OK , now we are talking….

One way to accomplish this task is through the development of gender-inclusive science communication activities. And because we know that gender identity is created and constantly re-negotiated at various levels ranging from the individual level to the societal and cultural levels (though this might sound complicated, it basically means that we all behave differently in different environments and with different people, and gender is a part of this as well). For example, research shows that girls and boys internalize gender at the individual level from an early age on. This means that when we start taking part in science education activities, we already have well-established gender identities. This again means that to avoid us believing that “science is not for us”, science activities should be carefully designed to be inviting to everyone, irrespective of their knowledge, interests, experiences, and sense of identity.

One of the focus questions we ask should be: What previous experiences do learners have with science? In response to this question, it is important that the planned science activity avoids presenting gendered activities that may contribute to the internalization of ‘female’ or ‘male’ science identities. One way of going about this could be to avoid competitions, as they tend to reinforce ‘female’ and ‘male’ stereotypes, but there are of course many other ways to ensure an inclusive approach.

 

NOTE: you can find this and other beautiful posters by @FindingAda on their website.