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STEM Gender Imbalance

Addressing the STEM Gender Imbalance

Encouraging more girls to study scientific subjects

Despite increasing awareness of the gender disparity within the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), women are still under-represented within science disciplines. Researchers in our Physics department have created a variety of educational outreach activities and initiatives that are encouraging younger generations, particularly young women, to engage with STEM disciplines and challenge established assumptions of who we think of as scientists.

The challenge

Many people still think of science as a ‘male’ field, in part due to the lack of visibility of female scientists in contemporary society and the lack of female role models for young women hoping to enter into a STEM field. As a result, by the time young people consider university, there is already an entrenched gender imbalance in some STEM disciplines.

Our approach

Our researchers have created a range of outreach activities, collaborating with local school groups, Brownie groups and sixth form students to creatively engage students with science through science fairs on campus, Warwick student showcases and an annual Christmas lecture programme (delivered online in December 2020). These initiatives have brought hundreds of members of the local community, family groups and school groups onto campus, introducing them to the variety of STEM disciplines and fields.

The XmaS Scientist Experience, an annual competition open to female students across the UK, culminates in 16 students visiting the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France and given the opportunity to explore, experiment and interact with international researchers working within the field of physics. By doing this, they can obtain a concrete picture of what a scientist actually does, and are able to ask researchers questions about their journey and how they overcame any barriers.

Our impact

Since 2015, the XmaS Scientist Experience has sent 48 students from across the UK to Grenoble, over 70% of which have since gone on to pursue STEM degree programmes at university. The project’s success has been widely recognised and has since been modelled and adopted by the University of Uppsala in Sweden. In 2018, 700 Brownies came to campus for a weekend, to engage with physics research. The girls also received a special badge designed by a nine-year-old Coventry Brownie. The annual Science Fairs and Christmas lectures, bring thousands of young people and families from the local area and from diverse backgrounds onto campus, leaving with a new enthusiasm for STEM subjects.

Find out more about our annual Christmas lecture programme

Our Physics outreach work

Hundreds of Brownies become budding physicists at the University of Warwick

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