Today is the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, addressing gender inequality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries.
Ballarat Tech School is tackling female underrepresentation in science and technology with their Girls in STEM program.
Research shows that role models have a positive impact on girls' perception of STEM subjects, and can inspire young women to work in STEM fields.
Ballarat Tech School director Sofia Fiusco says one of the best things about the program is that it exposes girls to women working in STEM industries. 'If you want to inspire someone to be curious to follow a path, they need role models to show it's possible,' Sofia says.
'If they see a woman in a job, it opens them up to the possibilities.'
'We're big on access and equity, we show images of women and men in non-traditional roles to let them know that it's not about gender, it's about skill.'
Girls in STEM was one of Ballarat Tech School's first programs. As industry involvement in the program delivery has increased, it has expanded to include industry visits, skill development and applied STEM challenges over two days to enable greater industry access.
'They love seeing their learning in action and how they can apply the technology in an industry setting,' Sofia says.
At a recent Girls in STEM day with industry partner Mars Wrigley Confectionery, four female engineers, scientists and professional leaders led the girls through designing, making and marketing chocolate. Students learnt about the food manufacturing industry and were exposed to the breadth and depth of engineering degree pathways available.
'Our day with Mars Wrigley Confectionary demonstrated maths in action as they calculated costs to manufacture the cost of waste and retail economics,' Sofia says.
'For us, it's all about inspiring girls to have a positive perception of STEM subjects, so they can say, "I can see myself continuing with this".'
The day focused on product development using 3D modelling technology to design, make and package a new type of chocolate, then pitch their product to a quality panel where it was assessed for consistency and creativity. The students say they love the 'real-world' aspect of the program.
Another benefit that Sofia has seen is that like-minded students from different schools come together and become friends. 'It's been fantastic,' Sofia says. 'They start to collaborate and bond.'
Tech Schools in the Education State
Victoria's 10 Tech Schools are centres of STEM excellence that engage students from neighbouring schools in industry-linked programs and a high-tech learning environment, to complement their work in the classroom.
They work as a link between schools and industry and deliver innovative programs that challenge students to solve real-world problems.
Tech School programs help students develop the skills and knowledge they need to compete in the future global job market.
A new exhibition, STEMPowered, showcasing some of the extraordinary achievements of Victorian women in STEM fields is currently touring Tech Schools. For more information, see:
Discover your local
Tech School and Ballarat Tech School's
Girls in STEM Pathways program