Girls’ Future – Our Future
The Invergowrie Foundation STEM Report 2020 Update.
The 2017 report, Girls’ Future – Our Future, The Invergowrie Foundation STEM Report (Hobbs et al., 2017) concluded with a number of recommendations for interventions and initiatives with potential to improve girls’ participation in STEM.
Start early (and follow through)
Engage with strategically selected role models
Provide for ongoing STEM career awareness.
Girls’ Future – Our Future, The Invergowrie Foundation STEM Report 2020 Update aims to update the 2017 report and provide an in-depth investigation into three particular topics – STEM Career advice, Role models in STEM and Addressing unconscious bias in primary STEM education.
The research team has delivered a report that describes good practices in Australia and elsewhere, identifies factors that help or hinder such practices, and concludes with recommendations to effectively encourage girls to consider further STEM education and STEM careers.
Recommendations from the report include:
STEM in Early Years (0-8years)
- Professional Learning for educators and teachers is and remains a priority with a focus on
- confidence and competence to teach STEM
- awareness of gender issues and the way gender features in the development of STEM identities.
- Initiatives focused on STEM knowledge and effective learning approaches for both preservice and in-service teachers should be a high priority.
- Educational programs targeting families and the pre-school community should be undertaken to enhance girls’ opportunities to see themselves as STEM capable. Informative material could be provided to parents about girls’ STEM capabilities, future aspirations and parental influences.
STEM Mentoring and role models
The importance of mentors and role models appears to be their capacity to
empower girls and foster STEM related aspirations.
- Research shows how role models and mentors can effectively support girls in their identity development.
- Relatability of role models and mentors is a key requirement.
- As girls are different and change over time, effective mentors and role models need to be able to recognise and address the different interests, identities and abilities girls express in relation to STEM.
- There are many organisations offering programs for mentoring and role modelling for girls in STEM however the role of teachers is not always prominent in these programs. Connecting teachers with STEM practitioners or students could potentially increase the impact of these programs.
- The study revealed that the status of career advice in Australia in general is problematic
- Government funding is marginal
- Schools do not seem to prioritise career advice
- Qualifications for career advisors is not required.
- The research reviewed for this study indicates that career advisors tend to be gender biased (consciously or unconsciously) and have limited knowledge of STEM pathways and professions.
- Career advice is targeted mostly to students in years 10 to 12 whereas the research demonstrates a need for career advice to start earlier – possibly as early as primary education.
- Career awareness and advice needs to start at a young age and career advisors and teachers of STEM should coordinate their initiatives, integrating career advice in the curriculum.
- It is recommended that career advisors and STEM teachers work together to
provide enhanced STEM career information.
- Primary schools are recommended to develop initiatives aimed to increase
awareness about STEM careers for teachers, students, and parents.
- Professional development for career advisors and teachers needs to be available so that they can maintain greater awareness of the factors that influence students’ decision-making processes and of changes in the labour market.
The report states,
Educators, parents and stakeholders from industries and governments should work together to help every girl (and boy) to make informed choices about STEM in relation to their future. Whether they decide to pursue STEM or not, should not be compromised by ideas of what girls can or cannot do, or are supposed to do.”