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More girls to become STEM stars of the future

Alanah Frost, February 10, 2021 7:00PM Herald Sun

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Students Hita Keshav, 15, Caitlyn Lewis, 17 and Emily Pham, 16 in the lab at John Monash Science School, Clayton, Victoria. Picture: Jake Nowakowski media_cameraStudents Hita Keshav, 15, Caitlyn Lewis, 17 and Emily Pham, 16 in the lab at John Monash Science School, Clayton, Victoria. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

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Girls are leading the charge and starting careers in science despite being outnumbered by their male peers.

More than 317,000 women were employed in areas of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) in November 2020 — making up 42.6 per cent of the workforce in Victoria for such occupations.

This is an increase on 2019, where 41.4 per cent of STEM workers were women and 58.6 per cent were men.

The jobs with the highest female employment include registered nursing, with 79,800 women employed across the state, accounting, which has 24,500, and management and organisation analysis, with 14,200.

But women and girls are still less likely to complete tertiary education in STEM than their male counterparts*, something the science, medical and education communities are trying hard to change.

Dr Liz Baker, a neonatologist* and researcher at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, works with newborn babies who are born premature or sick.

She said being able to help some of the state’s smallest and sickest patients, in both clinical and research settings, was “incredibly rewarding.”

“There’s lots of stereotypes about labs and white coats — but what a career in science can actually look like is so much more varied than that,” Dr Baker said.

“Research wasn’t at the forefront* of my career plans when I started medicine and it was probably being exposed to that as a junior doctor that inspired me to go down that path.”

Dr Baker is taking part in the hospital’s virtual Meet A Scientist event, which is being held on Thursday to mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and will be broadcast to more than 4500 Australian school girls.

Caitlin Lewis, 17, a Year 12 student and Vice School Captain at John Monash Science School in Clayton, Victoria, will be attending the event and said she had always “really loved” science.

“My first dream career was to be an astronaut, so I’ve always wanted to go into STEM,” she said.

“I want to try and make the world a better place and by going into science you learn about how the world works and what needs to be improved.”

She said it was daunting that in many areas, particularly engineering, women were still outnumbered, but said it was “important to try and break the stereotypes … and try and spark some curiosity so that hopefully women will continue in a career in STEM.”

Dr Sue Matthews, Chief Executive at the Royal Women’s Hospital added: “In Australia, just 20 per cent of girls are interested in a STEM-related career – versus 40 per cent of boys.

“Statistics like this underline* the importance of supporting, encouraging and elevating* women in science.”

GLOSSARY

  • neonatologist: doctor specialising in newborn babies who are born premature or sick
  • forefront: in the lead
  • underline: emphasise

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Study reveals benefits of all-girls schools

QUICK QUIZ

  1. What subject areas does STEM cover?
  2. What is this story about?
  3. Where does Caitlin Lewis go to school?
  4. Who is the Chief Executive of the Royal Women’s Hospital in Victoria?
  5. With which international day will the Meet a Scientist event coincide?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Careers in STEM
Work with a group of 3 or 4 to create a “mind map” of all of the different Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics careers you can think of – try to keep extending off each branch to add related jobs. Once you have exhausted all of your ideas, choose a different career each that you can research further. Spend around 20 minutes finding out what the career involves, the qualifications it requires, etc. Then come back together as a group and share what you have learnt about the STEM career you researched.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Mathematics; Technologies; Personal and Social Capability

2. Extension
You have 1 minute to convince a classmate that the STEM job you researched would make a great career. Talk them into it!

Time: allow 2 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Mathematics; Technologies; Personal and Social Capability

VCOP ACTIVITY
Down-Level It
When you up-level a sentence, you do things to it to improve it: make it more interesting, or more complex.

But sometimes, when we read something it can be too complex and we don’t understand it very well. You ask someone to explain it to you, they do (in a simpler way) and you think, well why didn’t they just say that?

Go through the article and find a sentence or two that is complex, or hard to read.

Ask an adult what it means, or try and look some of the words up in the glossary.

Once you know what it means, see if you can rewrite it in a simpler way- down-level it.

Make sure you don’t change the meaning of the sentence in any way though.

HAVE YOUR SAY: How interested are you in a STEM-related career?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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