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2nd October 2015 at 01:00

Creating gender-neutral environments to help girls

Sadly, last week’s news that girls in Scotland believe that science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects are too difficult is nothing new (“ ‘Make science compulsory in secondary schools’ ”, TESS, 25 September). This perception, and its implications, are part of long-standing problems across the UK.

At the Institute of Physics, we have been working for some time to understand the problems and we are running a number of evidence-informed pilot projects to test out some new types of intervention.

Our work shows that girls often have low levels of self-confidence – perhaps for reasons such as having been treated more cautiously while growing up – and that they see physics as too hard to try.

Our interventions are tackling the problem in three different ways: improving the confidence and resilience of girls; presenting physics in a positive light in the classroom; and helping schools to create gender-neutral environments. We believe that only by tackling wider school and societal issues can we have any significant success.

We are excited to be on the brink of starting a new project in Scotland in partnership with Skills Development Scotland, Energy Skills Partnership and Education Scotland. This new project is particularly exciting because we are going to be working with students from an earlier age, across nurseries, primaries and secondaries. We know that exposure to powerful messages about gender starts early.

Jessica Rowson

Girls in physics project manager at the Institute of Physics

Short and tweet

Three years ago I would never have thought I could stand in front of 27 adults and confidently lead a tutorial! #StrathBEd


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