More women are needed to pursue STEM careers given the gender imbalance and future workforce needs. Research suggests enrichment programs can increase STEM interest but limited specific knowledge is available.
I initiated a STEM Women Branching Out group (STEMWBO) at Flinders University in 2015. A first of its kind in South Australia, it supports HDR students through professional development, empowering events and peer networks, and inspires high school students. The demand for its quality services is reflected in its growth from 16 to 412 students within nine months and thriving social media communities. Initiatives to inspire school girls include the Aurora Science Photo contest - in its fourth year and expanding year on year and the STEM Enrichment Academy.
The STEM Enrichment Academy was established through Federal Government funding and reached 421 Year 9 girls, well exceeding its target through three enrichment programs with excellent participation and success in reversing student attitudes on the difficulty of STEM careers. It hosted 141 girls in a 3-day intensive STEM Enrichment conference featuring 45 sessions (hands-on workshops), tours, industry talks, teacher training and round-table discussions The success of these unique programs has seen me named The Advertiser Woman of the Year Top Innovator!
Extensive industry and government collaboration were essential to the success of these programs and fostered financial and in-kind support. We are inspiring schoolgirls to pursue STEM at a critical time in subject decision-making; empowering teachers as advocates; supporting university students. Our research and analysis developing an evidence-base of what works.