New project to advance women and girls in STEM

Tuesday 4 December 2018

girls seated around tables in classroom

The ‘Standing out from the crowd’ project will target 20 urban and 10 rural Victorian secondary schools.

In summary

  • New project to address the underrepresentation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)
  • Aims to use entrepreneurship as a vehicle for developing an interest in STEM
  • Project funded by The Invergowrie Foundation

Swinburne researchers have embarked on a year-long project to address the underrepresentation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The project, titled ‘Standing out from the crowd,’ will target 20 urban and 10 rural Victorian secondary schools.

It aims to create and evaluate the effectiveness of educational resources including profiles of highly successful enterprising women in STEM, and train teachers to deliver these resources in the classroom.

“We aim to use entrepreneurship as a vehicle for developing an interest in STEM. These skills are essential for navigating the working landscape of the future,” says Associate Professor Naomi Birdthistle, who is leading the project.

“There is an increasing trend towards including the teaching of enterprise skills such as problem solving, communication and presentation, digital literacy, teamwork, critical thinking, creativity and financial literacy in STEM subject matter,” Associate Professor Birdthistle says.

She says one reason for this is that, for some students, STEM content-matter can be more palatable when experienced through an enterprise lens – they can see the application of STEM content in the real world.

“Enterprise education provides students with short and long-term benefits both in and beyond the classroom. In the short term, it can positively influence students’ motivation, retention and connectedness. In the long term, entrepreneurship education at primary and secondary school levels has been found to be an effective means of shaping enterprise-related abilities in later life.”

Associate Professor Birdthistle says developing enterprise skills in Australians, particularly in our youth, is an Australian Government economic imperative.

“Of equal importance is the imperative to address the under-representation of females in STEM in order to help today’s girls become the entrepreneurial STEM women of tomorrow.”

Project funded by The Invergowrie Foundation

The project has been funded by The Invergowrie Foundation, whose primary mission is to advance the education of girls and women in Victoria. The strategic direction for the Foundation for the next three to five years is to focus on improving opportunities for girls using a STEM lens.

Established in 1992, the Invergowrie Foundation is a public charitable trust made possible through the McPherson Family gift of their property ‘Invergowrie’ in 1933. Sir William McPherson was a member of the original Swinburne College Council and became Council President. Both his son, William McPherson and grandson David McPherson, also served on the College Council.

In recognition of Sir William’s service and generosity to the College, the engineering building at Swinburne was named in his honour.