Raising the Next Generation of #STEMPowered Girls

#STEMPower Our Girls is here to save the day, not that these girls need saving.

STEM careers are vital to society, but why is it such a male-dominated field? This not only presents a number of problems, but it also presents certain challenges for women trying to enter the field, which is what #STEMPower Our Girls aims to address.

Perhaps this can be rooted to the way we were raised. From a young age, little girls had it drilled into their skulls that the woman was the homemaker, little girls played house while boys went on to do other things. I’m happy to have been in a school that did not separate girls and boys into Home Economics and Practical Arts. We had to take both subjects. It turned out I was better at Practical Arts. Sometimes it’s the little things.

Maybe it’s because we don’t have prominent role models? We barely hear anything about Ada Lovelace, Katherine Johnston, and Hedy Lamarr, they’re not people that are taught in schools. Even I only knew of Katherine Johnston because of the film Hidden Figures. PBEd Executive Director Love Basillote says that, “Globally, only 30% of the STEM workforce are women and as we get to senior leadership roles, we see fewer and fewer women. Many factors are behind this statistic and they can be cultural, social, or economic. One such factor is the lack of women role models.”

Breaking the glass ceiling

There are a few things to go about this. The first would be to not only encourage but support girls to pursue what they want. The second would be for them to actually get the chance to try out being in STEM fields, rather than boxing them into certain stereotypes. “We think it’s necessary for us to create an enabling and nurturing environment for girls all over the Philippines to pursue STEM careers; we need parents and teachers to support their aspirations.” shared Cecile Dominguez-Yujuico, CEO of Evident Communications.

Gender equality is the goal for a reason, and that reason is for diversity in perspective. How can we live in a world where only men’s problems are given attention? Do they have any idea how bad period cramps can get? How will these problems get addressed when there’s no one in the room to address that there’s a problem in the first place?

Finding a solution

#STEMPower Our Girls was created in direct response to the above-mentioned problems. The Philippine Business for Education and Evident Communications pioneered the social impact program, and is funded by Investing in Women, an initiative of the Australian government.

The program aims to gather the country’s top women scientists, technology and innovation drivers, and industry captains to mentor more than one hundred 6th grade students from public schools. According to PBEd, girls reach peak interest in STEM during their middle school years. This interest dwindles down once they reach high school, and is further pushed down when the idea of STEM being a boys club is reinforced.

The program takes flight in 3 areas: Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Cagayan De Oro. The 40 chosen participants from each pilot area will be girls with high marks and expressed interest in STEM. The entire thing kicks off in September 2018, with an initial round of industry talks with partners and role models. Actual training sessions begin in October 2018.

Along with the three programs in full swing, the #STEMPower Our Girls project also includes advocacy communications. This is to spread the message across all platforms through digital media and content; expanding the #STEMPower Our Girls dialogue nationwide.

“Our goal is for this advocacy to reach parents, teachers, and the community of female role models. All of whom are equally important contributors to the educational and career preferences of girls.”

The aim is to build a supportive community for our girls. This in turn not only uplifts society, but encourages girls to reach their full potential as the leaders of tomorrow. Are you with me?