33 SES 14, Including Girls Through Supporting the Development of Their Identities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Girls continue to be underrepresented in many school STEM subjects leading to ongoing gender disparity in STEM careers. At the school level, significant gender differences remain a persistent issue particularly in physics and (advanced) mathematics (Kennedy, Lyons & Quinn, 2014). This issue is not new and has seen a range of initiatives implemented in an attempt to increase girls’ STEM participation. In Australia, a large number of these initiatives have emphasized the role of mentoring. Mentoring of girls in STEM can be both academic and professional in nature (Stoeger et al., 2013) and generally involves an older STEM professional acting as a role model. Our research project (Authors, 2017) gathered data using expert knowledge that included 23 STEM stakeholder interviews, a forum with 14 participants and three workshops with a total of 25 participants. We sought to understand what these informants believe are the main barriers to girls’ STEM participation and possible solutions. This paper employs that data to take a particular focus on the importance and value that those who participated in the project associate with mentoring as a means for encouraging girls to pursue STEM. Previous research reveals that mentoring is not always successful (e.g. Packard & Nguyen, 2003) in helping to develop the forms of identity that Hughes et al. (2013) and Tan et al. (2017) describe that girls form of STEM and in some cases can make a STEM career seem less attainable for girls. In light of this research, the attention given to mentoring by both STEM stakeholders and initiatives designed to encourage girls into STEM is explored. In this sense, mentoring here is associated with formal initiatives rather than informal networks. The participants in this study considered formal mentoring as important at multiple stages of a child’s education and the role of narratives or stories were identified as being an essential part of the interaction between girls and the mentor. The need for girls to be able to see themselves and identify with particular career pathways and mentors is considered, and the role that mentors could play in providing relatable STEM narratives sheds light on how mentoring could be strengthened in future initiatives.
Authors (2017). Hughes, R, Nzekwe, B., & Molyneaux, K. (2013). The Single Sex Debate for Girls in Science: a Comparison Between Two Informal Science Programs on Middle School Students' STEM Identity Formation. Research in Science Education , 43 (5), 1979-2007. Kennedy, J. P., Lyons, T., & Quinn, F. (2014). The continuing decline of science and mathematics enrolments in Australian high schools. Teaching Science, 60(2), 34-46. Packard, B. W. L., & Nguyen, D. (2003). Science career-related possible selves of adolescent girls: A longitudinal study. Journal of Career Development, 29(4), 251-263. Stoeger, H., Duan, X., Schirner, S., Greindl, T., & Ziegler, A. (2013). The effectiveness of a one-year online mentoring program for girls in STEM. Computers & Education, 69, 408-418. Tan, E., Calabrese Barton, A., Kang, H., & O'Neill, T. (2013). Desiring a career in STEM‐related fields: How middle school girls articulate and negotiate identities‐in‐practice in science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 50(10), 1143-1179.
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