Various studies show that the number of women enrolling in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related disciplines is decreasing which also affects their chances in pursuing a career in this field. For instance, a global survey on women in tech in 2017 indicates that in 1991, 37% of computer science graduates were women, while this number went down to 26% in 2014 and to 18% in 2017. In higher education, only 35% of all students enrolled in STEM-related fields are female, and only 28% of all of the today´s world´s researchers are women, according to UNESCO.
In Spain, for example, in 2012 women represented 22% of the graduates in computing, and 29% in engineering, according to the European Commission. Other gender segregated data is even more pessimistic as it shows that although 54.3% of all students within the Spanish university system are women, their presence in technical degrees such as Engineering or Architecture falls to 26.4%.
To this end, Deusto University in collaboration with other Spanish universities and private tech entities launched Inspira STEAM, a pioneer project for the promotion of the scientific and technological vocation among girls based on awareness-raising and orientation actions facilitated by STEM women professionals. The project is funded by the regional governments of Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Alava, in northern Spain, and the City Council of San Sebastian.
The project is based on group mentoring approach through which science, technology, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM) are promoted among primary school students with a specific focus on girls. The project currently counts with the precious support of more than 310 women mentors, scientists and technologists, who are currently developing their professional activity in different fields such as academia, business, research or management.
Through this mentoring sessions, mentors voluntarily share their experiences and daily work with students and answer their questions in relevant matters.
Inspira STEAM’ working sessions cover topics such as gender stereotypes, women and science throughout history or areas of work with significant occupational prospects. These meetings between mentors and girls are intended to help dispel students’ doubts and objections about professions in science and technology, clarify their motivations and strengthen their self-esteem to start a tech career, if they wish so.
The project harvested very positive results since its inception in 2016, and expanded its geographical presence in the Spanish territory, as it has developed 113 activities in the regions of Andalusia, Catalonia, Basque Country, Galicia and Madrid. The project reached 2.982 girls and 2.893 boys, 13 times more students than the number it has targeted in its first year.
More information on the project is available in the link below and in its attached manifesto (available in English).
This platform is part of the Axis 1 "Strengthening the capacities of equality actors" of the Priority Solidarity Fund "Women for the future in the Mediterranean" funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and led by the European Institute of the Mediterranean, in the framework of the project “Developing Women's Empowerment” labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean.