Girls as Leaders in STEM

The challenge

The Invergowrie report ‘Girls’ Future — Our Future’ highlighted the need to expose girls to the existence of alternative education pathways and a wide range of rewarding STEM occupations. For this to happen, there needs to be a change in culture within schools (leaders, teachers and students) and society where the STEM pathway is not frequently promoted to young girls.

Research has shown that many middle years students (Years 5-8) turn away from STEM offerings at school and therefore effort is needed at this stage to increase awareness and participation of girls in STEM and entrepreneurship education. The ‘Women in STEM Decadal Plan’ highlighted key strategies relating to strengthening STEM teaching pedagogy, the importance of ‘real-world’ STEM scenarios, and the important role of industry in knowledge transfer into education.

Girls need to be seen as leaders and entrepreneurs in STEM. To achieve sustained outcomes, there is a need to fund programs that involve various stakeholders in education and industry

Project overview

Deakin University has been funded by the Invergowrie Foundation to develop and deliver the Girls as Leaders in STEM (GALS) program aimed at developing the STEM capabilities of school-aged girls from Years 5 to 8. Working closely with women in STEM and STEM leadership in project-based learning programs, GALS targets factors that influence societal, generational and system change, using the ‘Roadmap for Girls in STEM education’.

The program has been funded since 2019 to deliver separate programs to cohorts in regional Victoria (Geelong, Warrnambool, Mildura), with additional locations expected in the future. The program uses a series of workshops and mentoring activities for girls and teachers that facilitate a collaborative design-based learning experience where they are exploring the creative possibilities of STEM. Girls undertake a project focusing on a local industry need by engaging with STEM and entrepreneurial thinking. They are mentored by female scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, Deakin University STEM educators, and tertiary students to foster their interests in STEM and entrepreneurship, develop STEM skills and knowledge, and build their professional networks.

The program includes liaison with local industries, STEM professional learning for teachers, workshops for girls, and a Public Launch and presentation of girls’ completed projects. A School Liaison Officer is employed to visit schools and support students and teachers.

Outcomes

The project is collecting data, however, due to Department of Education restrictions on research in schools and school lockdowns, data collection was rescheduled to 2022–2023.  Data collected includes surveys of students’ attitudes to STEM, teachers’ strategies in relation to STEM teaching, and interviews with all stakeholders.

Informal evaluations of the program are provided to the funding body as the program has adapted to the restrictive conditions at schools and the move to blended formats for delivery.

Project team

Timeline

Project commenced in 2019

Funding

The Invergowrie Foundation, $380,000

More information

Keywords

GALS, STEM education, industry partnerships, girls, leadership, education research