Girls4STEM: Gender Diversity in STEM for a Sustainable Future
- The project Girls4STEM is presented as a useful initiative towards breaking stereotypes and opening the range of career options, especially for women.
- The programmatic theory of change underlying the project is stated, and the project implementation is carefully described to allow interested institutions adopting similar strategies. In addition, recommendations for ensuring a sustainable implementation are provided.
- Exploratory short-term results are given to support the project, linking them to fundamental concepts related to STEM such as self-efficacy and self-perception.
2. The Girls4STEM Project
2.1. Background and Motivation
- To disseminate the social applicability of studies and professions in STEM areas, with special emphasis on the fact that Engineering and Technology could also contribute to the common good of society. Based on stereotypes, girls often choose care-related vocations, so it is important for them to know that STEM disciplines are essential when it comes to generating changes in society.
- To promote the creation of support networks, through mentoring programs among girls.
- To increase the visibility of STEM female role models of proximity. It is essential that both girls and boys know the women scientists who have changed the history of science, but these references will not make them feel more motivated when choosing these studies. They need to know much closer references in which they can see themselves identified. Normal women with an interesting day-to-day job activities.
2.2. Lines of Action
- Promote STEM vocations.
- Arouse curiosity about STEM from an early age.
- Encourage the active participation of several agents: students, families, teachers, regional education entities, STEM experts, companies, and the Universitat de València.
- Increase the visibility of scientific STEM advances and connect them to their social value.
- Increase the visibility of female STEM researchers/professionals and their professional contributions.
3. Project Implementation and Sustainability
- The STEM expert signs up via the registration form in the Girls4STEM web page, indicating her specific STEM area and a short bio (Figure 1 (3)). The expert selects her kind of participation in the project: Family Talk activity, Professional Talk activity or both. This information is public and the School Center uses it to choose the experts they would like to interact with. The participation is voluntary and any STEM expert can join the project. Up to now (June 2020), 100 STEM experts have registered in this initiative.
- The School Center signs up via a registration form in the Girls4STEM web page (Figure 1 (1)). The Organization Team proposes five Family talks during the academic year, considering that this number is a good balance between the effort of the Organization Team and the impact of the project in the long-term. Two School Centers are scheduled per Family Talk to limit the duration of the session to one hour maximum. The School Center selects the Family Talk date among those available. The Organization also maintains a waiting list for the next editions. In the first edition, 10 schools have already participated, and 10 School Centers are on the waiting list for next editions.
- The Organization Team assigns the experts to the School Center from its preference list, also being in charge of initiating the contact between the center and the experts (Figure 1 (2)).
- The STEM expert meets the students at their School Center, at her workplace or by a video-conference (Figure 1 (4)). In this meeting, the students interview her and talk about her professional career, what a STEM job consists of, how her daily life is, the reasons that led her to choose a degree in the STEM field, the advantages and possibilities of a career in this area, the obstacles she faced, etc. The students make a three-minute video long based on this information (Figure 1 (5)). Note that the duration of the video needs to be kept short to ensure the engagement of the target audience. In the first edition, 40 female STEM experts have already met more than 400 pre-university students.
- The video is presented in the Girls4STEM Family Talk (Figure 1 (8)). These talks are held on a Saturday morning at the http://www.jardibotanic.org/?idioma=_eng Jardí Botànic of the Universitat de València, in a natural and playful environment. Students with their families and friends, teachers, and STEM experts attend the event. Two School Centers participate in each session, presenting a maximum of eight videos per talk. Note that the project limits to 4 the number of STEM experts that a School Center can interact with. Experts, students, teachers, and families share their experiences and how their perception about STEM branches have evolved in the recent years. In addition, the STEM experts can give some tips to families to spark interest in STEM disciplines. In this leisure environment, typical Valencian snacks and soft drinks are offered, and other gift items courtesy of the sponsoring companies. The Organization Team uploads the videos to the https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCz-Ie0ykkPIhxzKhNkOwfwg/featured Girl4STEM YouTube channel to make the biographies of the STEM experts visible and reach a wider audience. In this first edition, five Girls4STEM Family talks have been scheduled between January and June 2020.
- Once the activities are fulfilled, the School Center receives a reward in the form of a 3D-printer (equivalent to four videos) or a tablet per video (up to three videos), which contributes to increasing the motivation of students and teachers.
- The STEM expert signs up via the registration form in the Girls4STEM web page, indicating her specific STEM area and a short bio (Figure 1 (3)). The expert selects her kind of participation in the project: Family Talk activity, Professional Talk activity, or both.
- The Organization Team selects four invited speakers from different STEM disciplines for each talk in order to cover a wide range of STEM professions (Figure 1 (6)). Each expert is recommended to prepare a 10-minute maximum talk to ensure the dynamism of the activity. This variety of STEM disciplines serves as an inspiration to the teachers to transmit the interest about the STEM disciplines among their students.
- Sessions of the Professional Talks are held on Thursday evenings (Figure 1 (9)), as an alternative leisure plan, in emblematic buildings of the Universitat de València, helping to enhance its relationship with the Valencian society and making its history known. In the talks, soft drinks and/or water and a snack are offered to those attending, courtesy of the project’s sponsoring companies.
- The certification of the participation of the pre-university teachers by the CEFIRE is highly valued for teacher academic recognition and future promotion. These kinds of initiatives are included in the primary and secondary academic curriculum so that the interest of the School Centers is also guaranteed. This fact makes the initiative a remarkably rewarding and fulfilling experience for both sides, School Center and teacher staff.
- A STEM expert’s participation is voluntary and non-economically remunerated. In order to assure the project’s continuity, the objective is to enlarge the STEM expert database as much as possible to minimize the effort of the STEM experts. In this sense, continuous dissemination of the project activities and achievements via social networks is fundamental, supported also by the companies collaborating on the project, as well as the professional entities.
- This program relies heavily on the commitment of the Organization Team that is mainly composed of faculty members. Figure 2a) shows the breakdown of the project participants depending on the group they belong to. Note that this type of extra-curricular work does not have a real impact on the career of the Team members (i.e., Organization Team and University Collaborators), which is evaluated on the basis of contributions in research and teaching, fundamentally. However, the positive feedback obtained from the School Centers, students, STEM experts, and teachers motivates the Team members. Note also that this type of project can be regarded as a transfer of knowledge to society, being a very valuable contribution. To decrease the time investment on the project’s actions, shifts have been arranged among the Team members, so they are only required to provide support for a limited set of actions. In this first edition, the Organization Team has made a great effort to design and define the administrative protocols in order to easily externalize the management work in future editions, while the decision-making tasks would remain within the Organization Team. Note that this collection of protocols and management tools is also a short-term milestone of our project.
- In order to offer proximity STEM referents to pre-university students, ETSE-UV’s students collaborate in the development of the different actions. The University grants them with a 2 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) that can be included in their student record. Although both female and male students can participate, female students are especially encouraged.
- The annual economic cost of the project is about €. This amount is financed both through public and private funds, as shown in Figure 2b. Public funding comes both from the University itself and from projects and agreements signed with the public administration (Spanish and Valencian Regional Government, respectively). Private funds during the first year were obtained in the form of items such as the website implementation and maintenance, payment of conference rooms, etc. However, the project has received an accreditation for patronage http://mecenatge.gva.es/es/projectes-i-activitats-cientifiques-d-interes-social-a-la-nostra-comunitat/-/asset_publisher/172tMyBqeWmq/content/universitat-de-valencia-girls4stem, and it is expected to receive funds from companies via their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
- Girls4STEM Family Talk: Questionnaires have been designed for four surveys, two of them for the students (pre-survey and post-survey), and the other two for the Family Talk attendees (pre-survey and post-survey).
- The students carry out two surveys: one before starting the interaction with the STEM experts (at the School Center) and the other as a final task at the Family Talk, after the presentation of the video. The idea of the pre-survey is to determine the knowledge that students have about the gender perspective in STEM disciplines, in order to evaluate the influence of this type of initiative through a post-survey. These surveys are carried out by the students with online questionnaires.
- The pre-survey for the Family Talk attendees has been performed through the registration form by including a set of basic questions related to STEM general knowledge, since the perception of the family and teachers is fundamental (see Figure 3 questions Q1, Q2.a, and Q2.b) Although Figure 3 shows the pre-survey and post-survey for attendees at a Professional Talk, the same questionnaire applies to the pre-survey and post-survey Family Talk attendees.. The post-survey has been designed in a contest format through Kahoot! that allows for measuring the interest of the activity. It is launched at the end of the Family Talk, in a relaxed atmosphere. This post-survey includes questions about the presented videos, STEM general knowledge, and opinion questions about the dynamic of the session (see Figure 3 questions Q3, Q4, Q5, and Q6).
- Girls4STEM Professional Talk: In this action, questionnaires have been designed for two surveys for the Professional Talk attendees.
- The pre-survey for the Professional Talk attendees has been performed through a registration form including a set of basic questions related to the knowledge of STEM disciplines (see Figure 3 questions Q1, Q2.a, and Q2.b). It is worth mentioning that the audience includes teachers, students over 16, and professionals in general.
- The post-survey for attendees has been carried out in contest format through Kahoot!. This questionnaire is launched before ending the session, and it includes questions about the STEM expert’s talks and the knowledge of STEM disciplines. It also gathers opinions about the dynamic of the session (see Figure 3 questions Q3, Q4, Q5, and Q6).
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Benavent, X.; de Ves, E.; Forte, A.; Botella-Mascarell, C.; López-Iñesta, E.; Rueda, S.; Roger, S.; Perez, J.; Portalés, C.; Dura, E.; Garcia-Costa, D.; Marzal, P. Girls4STEM: Gender Diversity in STEM for a Sustainable Future. Sustainability 2020, 12, 6051. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156051
Benavent X, de Ves E, Forte A, Botella-Mascarell C, López-Iñesta E, Rueda S, Roger S, Perez J, Portalés C, Dura E, Garcia-Costa D, Marzal P. Girls4STEM: Gender Diversity in STEM for a Sustainable Future. Sustainability. 2020; 12(15):6051. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156051Chicago/Turabian Style
Benavent, Xaro, Esther de Ves, Anabel Forte, Carmen Botella-Mascarell, Emilia López-Iñesta, Silvia Rueda, Sandra Roger, Joaquin Perez, Cristina Portalés, Esther Dura, Daniel Garcia-Costa, and Paula Marzal. 2020. "Girls4STEM: Gender Diversity in STEM for a Sustainable Future" Sustainability 12, no. 15: 6051. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156051