February 11, 2019
By: Cecile Dominguez-Yujuico
In the Philippines, just two in seven engineering students are female, only 41 percent of students taking IT-related courses are women, and women make up only 43 percent of STEM enrollments—and mostly in non-engineering or non-IT fields, according to statistics from the Commission on Higher Education.
As women remain underrepresented in fields of STEM, how do we begin to bridge the gender gap and inspire the next generation of female innovators and leaders?
Evident partnered with the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), with the support of the Investing in Women initiative from the Australian government, to launch a program that hinges on the power of collective action. Our mission: to build, enable, and nurture a strong community of supporters that will help young Filipinas discover their passion for STEM and pursue this dream.
Girls start to lose interest in STEM subjects as early as the fourth grade, according to PBEd’s survey of learners from selected national science high schools in the country. From a young age, girls are normalized into thinking that STEM is not for them—that they naturally lack promise in math and science subjects, and that only men can do well in these careers.
By breaking the negative thinking of girls towards STEM at an early stage, we give them the confidence they need to succeed in these fields. As jobs change around the world, STEM offers women a chance to choose how, when, and where they work. There is a huge talent shortage in tech - one that is primarily female - and we can bridge the gap by building a young pipeline of women entering and thriving in STEM.
Harnessing the untapped potential of women is key to our country’s economic and social growth. How we think of “science problems” affects everyone - children, women, and men. By equipping more women with tools and skills to make innovations, we also diversify the range of inventions and breakthroughs by looking at problems differently than men typically do. This means we are increasing the number of people who are working to disrupt industries and open new markets. To face a future in STEM, we must encourage girls to remain open to developing all their math and science talents, and give them the right environment to maximize their potentials.
We launched the project by gathering stakeholders to raise awareness on the program. PBEd takes the lead in mobilizing partners for the on-ground activities, while Evident handles the advocacy communications component through public relations, digital media, and content. With PBEd’s expertise in education and nationwide reach, we were able to build strategic partnerships with schools and organizations to commence a rigorous recruitment, screening, and training process. Eventually, the program identified 120 Filipina sixth graders in our pilot areas of Manila, Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro.
Each girl was chosen based on academic merit (grades of at least 85 in science and math) and declared interest in STEM. The girls then participate in industry talks and workshops that are designed to raise and sustain their interest STEM—all part of a concerted effort to encourage them to enrol in a national science high school and pursue a STEM career.
Few girls follow a career in STEM because of a lack of female role models. That’s a gap we seek to fill by introducing our girls to Filipinas with proven success in the field.
Like Frances Mojica, a then college freshman who never really wanted to be in tech but took a risk in computer science and became one of Microsoft’s student partners in the Philippines.
Or Hillary Andales, trailblazing student from Leyte who won the 2017 Breakthrough Junior Challenge and is headed for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to study physics.
Or Adora Mendoza—whose dreams of becoming a successful career woman motivated her to overcome poverty and succeed as a software engineer and technical solutions manager for IBM.
By providing these girls with women they can look up to, they begin to understand their own possibilities. STEM for girls becomes something real, aspirational, and achievable.
Changing the way STEM is taught is important. We show girls that STEM is fun, relevant, creative, and collaborative through hands-on, real-world problem solving activities. Our career caravans and workshops highlight the economic and social benefits of a career in STEM. Rather than box them into certain stereotypes, we give girls the chance to try out being in STEM fields. We build girls’ confidence in STEM by giving them a space where their ideas can bloom.
It’s not just about the girls. It’s also about their parents and teachers who have a say in their educational and career preferences. We create compelling content that demystify STEM for girls and their families. By providing them with relevant resources, we enable parents and teachers to support the girls’ aspirations and make informed decisions about their futures.
STEM education for girls is a matter of community—of people working together in empowering girls to start down the path of choosing STEM careers. By addressing the beginning of the pipeline, the #STEMpower Our Girls project invests in a future where more young girls are given opportunities to shape our world and achieve job stability in a highly tech-focused society. Our young Pinays deserve this. And so does the country’s future workforce.
Find out more about more about STEMPower Our Girls