Lord Mayor’s campaign inspires girls into STEM subjects

A new campaign designed to get more girls and young women interested in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM subjects) and narrow the gender gap is launching today in Bristol.

Bristol Girls Make It is being launched by Lord Mayor Clare Campion Smith at a breakfast seminar at At-Bristol Science Centre, which brings together the city’s education and business professionals who are in a position to make a real difference to interest in STEM subjects.

Taking place during British Science Week (11 – 20 March), the launch event provides an opportunity to examine the current situation in Bristol, looking at the challenges and opportunities to get girls and women engaged with STEM subjects. The ambition is to put STEM subjects at the heart of conversations about career options for girls and women. This will be achieved by building stronger links between professionals and working with teachers to find ways to inspire young girls – including highlighting exciting career options.

Teachers from primary and secondary schools in the city have been invited to the launch event and the focus will be on sharing experiences about how to increase participation for girls, particularly those in years five and six. Representatives from Ablaze, At-Bristol, Knowle West Media Centre, Bristol University, University of the West of England, youth organisations, Bristol-based businesses, the council’s education team and Learning City partners will be attending.

Lord Mayor, Cllr Clare Campion-Smith, said:

“We know there is a wealth of expertise and experience in Bristol’s schools and businesses so we need to look at how we can better share that knowledge across the city. This is part of our commitment to being a Learning City – that we share best practice so everyone can benefit from better learning opportunities.

“We’re going to be targeting young girls in the two years before they move on to secondary school so that they begin to see STEM subjects as exciting and something that they want to be involved with. Getting girls interested will give them better career opportunities in the future, as Bristol is a hub of IT and technology companies. This will also improve Bristol’s economy and workforce so it’s not something we can be complacent about.”

As part of the campaign, the Lord Mayor will be visiting primary schools across the city to speak to girls and their teachers, building better links across primary schools and enabling success to be shared. The focus will initially be on schools in more deprived areas of the city. Many of the schools visited by the Lord Mayor have recently had expansion or building works taking place, as part of the council’s drive to provide 10,000 additional places, so children will have seen females working in construction and engineering roles.

Dr Kathy Fawcett, Education Manager for At-Bristol Science Centre added:

“Sixty thousand young people visit At-Bristol Science Centre each year and half of them are girls. We all know that girls love STEM subjects and that they are good at them, but also that they are significantly underrepresented in the STEM workforce. The reasons for this may be ancient and complex but fortunately the solutions don’t need to be. Making big and positive changes to put this right needs everyone, and At-Bristol is committed to working with schools, businesses and communities to enable girls to succeed – sweeping away the barriers and providing  positive messages and exciting experiences that make potential careers visible and within easy reach.”

Professor Alice Roberts is Professor for Public Engagement at University of Birmingham and one of the campaign’s champions. She said:

“There’s a real issue when it comes to girls studying STEM subjects and aiming for careers in this area. For instance, only 1 in 5 students studying A level Physics is female, and in half of state secondary schools, there are no girls in the Physics A level class. Girls are clearly missing out – and society is missing out on their potential. There are moral, ethical and economic reasons for wanting to achieve better equality in science education – and careers.”

Bristol Girls Make It links in with the wider Learning City initiative as part of which partners across Bristol have committed to improving learning opportunities for everyone. An element of this work is focused on removing barriers for people to access jobs – and make the most of opportunities to learn for and in work.

For more information about Bristol Girls Make It, visit: www.bristolgirlsmakeit.com.