Jennie Lynch, a physics teacher at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School, shares her experience of the project…
At the launch show of the SeeWomen project – a unique collaboration between Siemens and the Girls’ Schools Association (‘GSA’) – I was expecting whizz-bang science from children’s presenter Fran Scott. But I wasn’t expecting the impact the show would have on how I give careers advice.
I left with the words, “Girls like things that are tangible, if they can’t see and touch a career they will never be it,” resonating in my ears. A show of hands from the Year 9 girls present indicated that many had already decided their future career path. When asked to keep their hands raised if they had chosen the same career as someone in their family, the majority still had their hands up.
SeeWomen aims to inspire more girls to pursue a career in science and engineering. So far around 1,400 girls have experienced a live ‘showcase’ event delivered by Siemens staff and Fran Scott. GSA schools host the events and invite girls from local state schools to join their own girls. As a physics teacher, I understand the importance of female role models and discussing careers with my students, but, after experiencing a SeeWomen showcase, I finally understand how I can do it with maximum impact.
Let’s stop asking students, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” It’s a question that forces a particular kind of answer. Instead, let’s ask, “Would you like to work with people, with computers, in a laboratory, problem-solve, help people, travel the world, make lots of money?” We need to steer students away from the straitjacket of naming a career upfront and instead help them focus on the skills they need to create the kind of work they will enjoy. Some of today’s students will have jobs that don’t even exist yet, so the best we can do is teach them transferable skills and give them the confidence to realise that they can do whatever they want, regardless of gender, and encourage them to focus on a skills path.
SeeWomen shows girls what engineers really do, the huge variety of skills different engineers use, and the impact they can make on the world if they, too, become an engineer or scientist. Women are massively underrepresented in engineering and Siemens are working hard to rectify this. I recently attended a workshop with other teachers from GSA schools across the country. Our mission, to absorb the format of the SeeWomen showcase events, so we can ‘do it ourselves’, with help from our local Siemens office.
“What makes this different?” you might legitimately ask. Schemes with similar objectives haven’t worked in the past. But I think this is different. I left the workshop armed with a memory stick of resources, ready-made for me to use or adapt as I please; PowerPoint presentations on real women working in science and engineering; engagement ideas; practical activities covering all Key Stages; and specification-based topics.
Good things are happening. Siemens are not the only people to take on board the fact that, before they even start primary school, girls believe boys are better than them at STEM subjects.
I feel inspired. Not the type of inspiration that wanes once you realise just how much of your own time and effort is required to make something work in your own classroom – this time Siemens have done most of the work for me and I’m ready to take up the baton.
For more on Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School, visit: merchanttaylors.com/senior-girls/