Slide 5 At A level you can see the big gap that is currently widening in Wales

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1 Notes on presentation for Science and the Assembly Girls in STEM Slide 1 It s not a revelation to say that there is a problem with the number of girls taking sciences at school and choosing STEM careers especially when you talk about the physical sciences. Over the last few years there have been a raft of reports examining the problem and trying to get to the bottom of when girls make these choices, what influences them and most importantly what we can do about it. What I hope to do today is outline some of the findings from those reports and draw out what can be done by all of us and by Welsh Government to try and make some meaningful progress. Slide 2 These are the 6 reports we are mainly going to refer to along with reference to the recent House of Commons Science and Technology Select committee on Women in STEM and my own report to the Science Advisory Council on STEM enrichment and engagement. There may well be others I have missed for which I apologise. There seems to be almost a new report or study published every day at the moment on this issue! But I d like to say it s time to stop talking about the problem and start taking action in a joined up (and well- resourced!) way. Slide 3 So these figures from the Science Grrrl report set the scene for the problem. Science Grrrl is a grassroots organisation consisting of regional chapters of scientists and engineers who want to do practical things to address the under- representation of women in STEM. They set up initially to produce a calendar as a backlash against the controversial EU campaign: Science It s a girl thing. With a need for more STEM graduates to boost the UK and Welsh economy, and a severely low representation of women in STEM we can see why there is a push to ensure that 50% of the talent pool for STEM is not denied access to science in any way. Slide 4 Some specific figures for Wales highlighting the number of students choosing physics at GCSE show how we are falling behind the UK average even though numbers are gradually climbing. The split between girls and boys here isn t too great but it s at A level when the gap really opens, despite girls doing just as well at physics and maths at GCSE as boys. It s not an ability problem that stops them progressing Slide 5 At A level you can see the big gap that is currently widening in Wales

2 Slide 6 The CASE report on improving Diversity in STEM sums it up and in Wales we re right to be worried. Nearly half of state schools didn t send a single girl on to do A- level physics. In Wales figures even are more worrying. In 2013 there were falls in the number of girls studying every science subject at A- level, alongside an increase for boys. This was most pronounced in Physics with an 11% fall for girls but a 5% increase for boys This is a vital figure as it has been shown that of those who study A level physics at least 98% will go on to study STEM at higher level. So if we can increase the number doing A level we may push up the number further down the pipeline too. Of course this isn t a problem that we haven t been trying to address for many years. I was Chair of WISE in Wales back in 2005 and the WISE campaign is 30 years old this year. I ve been involved in various role model campaigns by the Research Councils and publicity events over the last 20 years but why are we still not seeing a big turnaround? Slide 7 I think Science Grrrl sum it up well with this statement. They say: Girls shouldn t have to change culture does and of course this is a much bigger problem to address Many of the other reports suggest similar courses of action, whether it be tackling culture change in schools, society, or funding bodies who help develop the careers of Women in STEM. Slide 8 Obviously there is a lot of material in all these reports and I would urge you to look them up and have a read yourselves. All the links and the notes from this presentation will be on a blog I ve written which I ll tweet a link to if you follow me on twitter, or you can find it via the science made simple homepage (www.sciencemadesimple.co.uk) I m going to try and draw out just three key areas we can tackle and suggest two things we can all do at each level 1 as individuals and organisations, and 2 how Welsh government or other stakeholders can help on a bigger level. The three steps to cultural change are 0-7 (preschool and foundation), 7-11 (key stage 2 Upper primary students) and (secondary to end of GCSE). Slide 9 So what kind of thing occupies the life of babies, toddlers and pre- school children and why is it important? Albert Einstein said Play is the highest form of

3 research and how children play and what they play with is important to how they develop a sense of self. Increasingly scientific research does not support the widely held public belief that girls and boys inherently want to play with different kinds of toys. It s our society and more worryingly advertisers who tell our children that. This hasn t always been the case. Look at how Chemistry toys have changed over the years. From being something girls and boys can do together just because it s inherently fascinating and now it has to be dressed up as a chemistry spa experience Slide 10 Budding engineers of the 1980s just had lego to play with lego bricks for girls and boys, what you made was up to you, it wasn t defined by the pictures on the box, or the colour of the bricks. Now we have lego friends where girls are encouraged to build with kits that allow you to build a Beauty shop or Cake parlour. Is it a harmless way to get girls interested in construction toys? NO it s saying that the only things that could get girls wanting to play in this way is to dress it up as a way to comply with the idea that girls are only concerned with appearance and a very limited range of job choices. Slide 11 Of course children can choose to play with any toy they want but they don t have to be much older than 4 to start to realize what is expected of them and as soon as they start school and their peers begin adding to that expectation, it is very easy to put a boy off toys that develop nurturing skills or a girl who wants to play with lego or cars. Look at how shops promote toys. Here s something we all can do I would urge you to join Let Toys be Toys campaign and name and shame any shops you see displaying toys in this way. It isn t helpful. Since they began as a grassroots campaign they have succeeded in getting many stores to remove these signs. It s slow progress and some stores don t quite get the point I fear Slide 12 This is how Morrisons in Cardiff Bay responded. But we re trying to change a heavily embedded culture here it isn t going to be an overnight job. Some believe we could even go a step further and bring in legislation to prevent toy manufacturers stereotyping and advertising toys in this way. A little google search brought up this to suggest it has been discussed by UK government Slide 13 but I don t know what happened after.

4 Slide 14 At key stage 2 (and beyond) the choices of career of girls (and boys) begins to be affected largely by something called Science Capital. This refers to family or friends with science related qualifications, or understanding of how science works and personal interest in the subject or contacts with others working in the field. Most importantly the ASPIRES study suggests that if students by the age of 10 don t express an interest in STEM aspirations then they are unlikely to develop them at a later age. We need to move some of our emphasis from working with secondary schools (just before students choose GCSE topics) to much earlier, or we are having to work that much harder to convert them! Slide 15 Chwarae Teg have an existing scheme called Fair Foundations which helps schools address the diversity issue at primary schools and in my opinion this is something every primary school in Wales should be doing if we seriously want to tackle the stereotypes at the right age. Slide 16 By age 8 they found that these are the career choices coming up for boys and girls I ve left the labels off as sadly I think it s pretty easy to guess which ones are which. Imagine a day when we could put up two such slides and not be able to spot the difference. Slide 17 and sadly parents sometimes reinforce these stereotypes. Look at the responses found in the CASE diversity report about the types of job they would like their sons and daughters to pursue So something we can all do is help increase science capital for any children in your family or friend s families - talk to them about what you do or what you know. Explain unfamiliar job titles to do with STEM eg Geologist, engineer. And ask the governors of your primary schools whether they are actively doing anything about gender stereotyping in careers in fact are they talking to students about careers at all? Something the government can do is increase the support for schools to receive training and CPD on how to embed these messages across the whole school such as the Fair Foundations project.

5 Slide 18 Moving on to the final stage at secondary school Key stage 3 and 4 where the choices are made that define the career paths of girls. Evidence shows that lack of enthusiasm for science careers isn t down to a lack of interest and value in the subject. This has been found in multiple reports not just ASPIRES but the Public attitudes to science survey (2011 and 2014) and the latest Wellcome Trust Monitor. Young people enjoy science at school. They see it as interesting, they see scientists as making a difference. But they just don t want to be one.why? Slide 19 The careers information received by students is poor schools are tasked with delivering it themselves since the cut in funding to Careers Wales. It isn t working. Teachers aren t equipped with the necessary background knowledge and they don t have time. So something we can all take action on is to help as much as you can with careers related events and activities with schools offer work experience placements or go in and talk about your job. Anything that will help students make the connection and encourage them to see that scientists do a diverse range of jobs that are rewarding and meaningful. Slide 20 but a note of caution about role model campaigns, beware of creating role models who seem too good to be true, or where you are unintentionally reinforcing stereotypes. This is about diversity and equality. Scientists come in all shapes and sizes, some role model campaigns seem to feature only super models! And if you are writing text about an inspirational woman in STEM for any publication try and apply the journalistic Finkbeiner test on what you have written to ensure you haven t fallen in to the trap of stereotyping yourself! Many of the reports point out that it is vital to feature men in careers where they have taken alternative paths too, and show that they also take on the issue of work and family life balance. Slide 21 and a final big action that Government could take is to consider making gender imbalance something that schools are assessed in. The IOP Closing Doors report showed how it is often the whole school environment that is the biggest decider on whether boys or girls take stereotypical subject choices. IOP are working hard with their Stimulating Physics network to understand this issue and create action to help teachers address unconscious bias and change it.

6 If we had equivalent funding in Wales it would cost just 200,000 to tackle this with similar work in Wales. Should ESTYN be inspecting issues of gender imbalance in schools? Slide 22 As I outlined in my recently published report to the Science Advisory Council of Wales - the Stimulating Physics Network in England is a real success story for girls. Schools on the IOP scheme saw a 200% increase in the number of girls taking physics surely that evidence alone makes it worth investing in for Wales? Slide 23 And your final call for action today is to join the recently launched #yourlife campaign (www.yourlife.org.uk) where 170 organisations across the UK including science made simple and Cardiff University School of Physics and Astronomy have signed up to take action together on these issues Slide 24 All the links and the notes will be available later today on our website and blog. If you tweet me I ll send round the shortcut link to it. It s a big ask to change our culture but it s what needs to happen. I think if we can take at least some of these steps, we will be moving in the right direction. Thank you

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