Here we are again – it is International Women’s Day and there is a sudden interest in what can be done about girls and women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Why haven’t things changed when we have been trying to move things along for so long? What are the top tips? Well – there aren’t any simple answers and culture change is like weaving fog.
Lots of things have changed for the good – there are many more female role models going into schools, lots of high profile women in science are much more vocal, there are inspiring groups being active and getting out there and there are companies, teachers and other professionals who have taken on the messages and walk the walk.
But…and a big but…we have gone backwards in our general societal and cultural attitudes…pinkification, princesses, toys for boys and toys for girls, media obsession with stereotyping girls and women, sexual harrassment, absence of women in making government decisions.
We have lost a lot of our collateral – with wholesale change in education and careers, the loss of funding for women in SET and women per se, the weakening of the EHRC. Lots of those who were doing good work have fallen by the wayside for lack of funding or other reasons.
So – we (all those who care enough) and who are still here need to get together and do something! Collaborate and join the energy of the new groups with the experience and learning of the old.
I believe if we get together we can drive things forward again. But it is not an easy task.
When we held an event in 2011 (for STEM Careers project) to discuss where next for equality and diversity in STEM – the consensus was to ‘maintain and grow the head of steam’ within the STEM community. At times it feels like we are pushing the train up a hill…we need more people, pushing in the same direction to get things moving again.
We won’t achieve change through one off interventions – but with sustained and well informed practice over time.