International day of women and girls in science - February 11th 2020

Jan. 6, 2020

In 2016, the UN declared 11 February as International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The main reason for this declaration was to encourage more girls and women to take up jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (also known as the STEM subjects). Figures show that although there's no significant difference in ability between boys and girls in maths and science, less than 35 per cent of graduates in STEM subjects worldwide are women and there are even fewer in engineering and information technology.

Whilst more girls are attending school than ever before across the globe, girls are significantly under-represented in STEM subjects in many settings and they appear to lose interest in STEM subjects as they reach adolescence.

Less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women. With too few women in decision making roles and higher-paying STEM jobs, the gender gap in STEM has deep implications for the future of the global economy. For instance, women stand to gain only one new STEM job for every 20 lost, in stark contrast to men, who gain one new STEM job for every four lost. Improved recruitment, retention and promotion policies, as well as continuous learning and up-skilling for women can go a long way towards closing this gap.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science, gives us the chance to address this imbalance and enables us to celebrate women and girls leading innovation and look at removing the barriers that currently hold girls back.

There are a range of activities and ideas that you could use on the day or during the week to highlight this. You could hold an assembly on February 11th, to introduce the day and highlight women scientists, or, by inviting in parents/carers/members of the local community to talk about their jobs and roles within the STEM subjects.

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If you're a Purple Mash subscriber, you could also use one of the many writing frames within Purple Mash to research famous women scientists, Helen Sharman, Marie Curie, Zaha Hadid, Mary Anning, Florence Nightingale and Ada Lovelace. We have made the Ada Lovelace fact file and slideshow free for all schools to use during the next two weeks. Children could then present their fact files either in class or on a display board within Purple Mash highlighting work completed as part of the day.  If you have access to Serial Mash you could also read Mary Anning and the Time Twister – on a school trip to Lyme Regis in the UK Jasmine and Kyle meet two famous fossil hunters and travel back to the time of the dinosaurs.

There's also an Ada Lovelace day quiz that looks at Ada and other famous scientists that could be used to check understanding and highlight the importance of women scientists. You could also use 2Quiz and get the children to create their own quiz about famous women scientists and inventors. The Finding Ada website has a range of useful resources for teachers looking for support both in terms of teaching STEM, and addressing the challenge of combating gender stereotypes. You can find the full list here.

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Why not download these free posters that celebrate women innovators. Each poster is accompanied with a brief description of both the innovator and the female artist and would also make an excellent display in class. Or why not make use of a range of Mashcams and children can put themselves into the roles of a Physicist, Biologist, Astronaut or an Engineer, showing their thoughts and future aspirations. You can see the full collection of Purple Mash resources for International Day of Women and Girls in Science here.

If you use any of the resources that we've highlighted today please share them with us either on our Twitter or Facebook pages.