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Advice from a STEM Ambassador on gender

Listen to Alice Gray, STEM Ambassador on gender and STEM
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Alice Gray: I always go into STEM Ambassador Programs and events keeping certain things in mind. I’m very aware of my own personal biases and the biases we all have, so for example, people are less likely to take answers from girls when they put their hands up. They’re less likely to tell boys off if they’re shouting out in class and they’re more likely to tell girls off if they shout out in class. So, and I’m also very much aware that girls are less likely to put their hands up in class as well.
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So, whenever I go into a STEM activity I always try and keep those things in mind and try and enable the girls to have an equal as possible, a contribution to the activities and be very aware of how many answers I’ve taken from boys and girls as well. Because I want girls to feel like they have a voice within the classroom as well and if we’re unconsciously taking more answers from boys than girls, you are unconsciously teaching them that they don’t have a voice in the classroom. Especially when it comes to a subject like STEM, where girls are less likely to take it on further.
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I think that young girls tend to get the idea that they don’t have a voice in their classroom and they just end up being quite quiet and they don’t necessarily feel like they own the classroom and they can really affect girls’ confidence and we see in STEM subjects that confidence is a really big problem for young girls and it’s one of the reasons why they don’t tend to take it on further than GCSEs and they don’t imagine themselves in STEM careers is because they lack confidence in their skills and those subjects, so just by nurturing them a little better.
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Making sure that they feel like they can answer and if they get it wrong, it doesn’t matter and that just enables them to feel like they have a bit more ownership in the room. And that in itself breeds confidence I think. If you’re using pictures of scientists as part of your promotional materials. If you’re from a company or on your slide presentations. Try to have a good representation of both men and women, just so when you’re in the classroom, or in an activity with young kids, they can look up to those people and see themselves in them and think, oh well, I could do that. ‘People like me’ do that.

In this video interview, Alice Gray, a STEM Ambassador in Wales, talks about her approach to working with young people and her awareness of gender bias.

Alice featured recently on regional news talking about young people, gender and STEM subjects. You can find out more about her volunteering and watch her video clip on the Fixers website:

Summary

  • Take time to reflect on your own biases.
  • Balance interactions and contributions between boys and girls.
  • Ownership of voice and confidence are important to develop in young people, particularly with girls.

Reflect

In this task, we’d like you to consider the ideas presented by Alice and the research from the previous step. Many of you will have delivered presentations or talked about your work with others. Using the questions below, identify what approaches you already use and where might you improve:
  • Do you use gender neutral illustrations and examples?
  • Do you use language without jargon?
  • Do you use analogies with broad appeal, such as music or health, as opposed to football and cars?
  • Do you provide context by linking topics and highlighting applications and social relevance?
  • Do you draw attention to female role models?
  • Do you monitor the proportion of time you interact with boys in comparison with the time you spent interacting with girls?

The questions above are also available as a checklist [Word docx]. A PDF is available below.

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Volunteering in the Classroom: Adapting Resources for STEM Activities

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