A SPECIALIST project to help increase the number of women in STEM fields has been launched at a Wales-wide event.
The University of South Wales (USW), with the support of funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), is leading the way by establishing the Wales Women in STEM Network.
Designed to bring women together to help support each other, the Network features a website with a collaborative platform so that women can ask questions, share experiences, and find mentors who can make a real difference to their STEM ambitions.
The launch of the Wales Women in STEM Network was attended by more than 200 people across Wales in simultaneous events held at the National Museum Wales in Cardiff and the National Slate Museum in Llanberis, Gwynedd, on Monday, September 16.
It was addressed by Jane Hutt, Welsh Government Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, who has responsibility for equality. The keynote address was by Dr Tara Shine, an environmental scientist with more than 20 years’ experience working as an adviser to governments and world leaders, entitled Mother Nature Needs her Daughters.
The event also included a series of workshops to address a number of issues, including how to support women returning to jobs STEM, how to engage girls in STEM from a young age, how men can act as allies for women in the workplace, and what can be done in the future.
A key part of the day was also to launch the Wales Women in STEM website – www.waleswomenstem.org – and the Wales Women in STEM Collaborative Network, which can be reached from the website.
“Wales Women in STEM aims to expose and address the barriers that face women working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM),” said Dr Louise Bright, who is one of the project co-ordinators and Director of Research & Business Engagement at USW.
“Wales has much to celebrate. We have a great deal of support for women in STEM but our research demonstrated that this support was not co-ordinated and it was often difficult for people to reach out and engage with what was on offer.
“Our website intends to bring together the great initiatives that are already on offer so that teachers seeking resources or young professionals seeking role models know where to come. Women are fantastic at supporting each other and this is just one way in which we can help facilitate that. “
Dr Bright added that the Network has been established because women are under-represented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in Wales.
“From school learners right the way through to professors and leaders in STEM businesses, women are poorly represented,” she added.
“Welsh Government recognised this issue and set some challenging recommendations to schools, colleges, universities, and industry to help to turn the tide and start addressing what is a set of complex issues.
“In schools, girls often stop taking STEM subjects after their GCSEs. More women drop out of STEM after university and the leaky pipeline continues as women climb up the STEM career ladder. This is detrimental to the economic prosperity and social wellbeing of Wales. It is a complex problem.”