Surrey, BC, October 19, 2020 – In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, jobs within science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) make up a large sector of the job market. These jobs, although incredibly important and in demand, are also overwhelmingly gendered. While the majority of university graduates are female, according to Statistics Canada, only 39 per cent hold a degree in STEM. Even within this limited group, only three out of 10 women actually work in the STEM sector post-graduation. This number drops even lower when it comes to racialized women.
The lack of women in STEM, also termed “the leaky STEM pipeline,” has been traced back to childhood. Studies have shown that girls, for various, sometimes unseen reasons, are more likely to turn away from STEM than their male classmates. Research conducted by the Girl Guides of Canada shows that girls stop pursuing STEM, for various reasons such as lack of representation and deeply ingrained social norms, as early as Grade 8.
Through the collaboration of DIVERSEcity and the Science ALIVE program at Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Applied Science, with funding from the Canadian Women’s Foundation, the Power Girls program has been created to provide a dedicated space to create a new approach to STEM programming. Aimed at migrant girls aged 9–12 years old, this program hopes that through hands-on and specific guidance, these girls will be able to pursue a path to STEM while breaking down social norms and stereotype barriers that may hinder their path.
“We are very excited to collaborate with DIVERSEcity on this meaningful project to empower girls in science and engineering,” says Jinny Sim, Manager, Outreach and Diversity at SFU. “There is still a lack of women in STEM, especially from the BIPOC groups. We can’t wait to meet the girls and show how fun science and engineering can be and how they are used in our everyday lives for social good.” Classes will begin on October 31 and, although they will be online for now, students can expect experiential learning kits delivered to their homes.
Sim further explains, “this year, the girls will go through a project-based engineering curriculum to explore the various field of engineering, learn about the great achievements from female engineers and build their own project that demonstrates their learning. The girls will leave the program with confidence, a sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue studying STEM!”
“We know that a lot of these young girls just need the space and proper supports in place and they will thrive. It isn’t easy to follow a path when the stereotypical and idealized mathematician or scientist doesn’t look like you,” explains Jessica Forster Broomfield, Manager, Children’s Programs at DIVERSEcity. “We want this program to act as a motivator for racialized girls to make their space and to change the STEM sector for generations to come.”
“Hopefully by addressing the issue head-on, we will be helping create a new type of future where anyone who is passionate enough can pursue the career of their choice without having to second-guess if they fit a certain mold or not,” added Forster Broomfield.
Free to students, the Power Girls program is funded through the Canadian Women’s Foundation, in partnership with the captain of the Canadian national soccer team, Christine Sinclair.