Moonshoots – how we’re taking a whole-of-pipeline approach to diversity in STEM

December 22, 2016 10:25 am
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We’re passionate champions for equality across the board, and we’re trying to level the playing field for women in corporate Australia by promoting flexible roles for progressive employers. We see flexibility as an enabler to achieving an inclusive workplace by removing barriers in rigid work design that would otherwise exclude a large proportion of (often) women from the workforce.

Seeing industries that have been traditionally male-dominated begin to embrace flexibility as this enabler is great – they’re desperate to achieve a more diverse workforce. And rest assured that we’ll be advocating on your behalf to improve flexibility within our partners’ workplaces.

But for some other industries, flexibility alone is not enough to get them to equality. For industries like STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths), part of the diversity and equality problem is in the pipeline, all the way back to the point where girls lose interest in science and maths in primary school.

There is a myth that children’s abilities in maths and sciences are a function of their gender, socioeconomic status or any other stereotype (they’re not). Studies have found that socialisation and society’s expectations control male and female differences, not genetics. Young girls are more likely to enjoy science and maths in primary school, but by the time they reach university, only 14% of entrants to engineering degrees are female.

At some stage, girls stop liking STEM subjects, and either fall behind boys, or simply opt out.

This is what FlexCareers’ sister company, apptEDUde is trying to fix via the STEM Explorer app.

It has built a game to keep kids engaged over the school holidays. During the holidays is when studies show the most significant learning losses occur. Instead of picking up right where they left off after their break, students will have lost some of their knowledge from the previous year and be in need of revision, which in itself doesn’t sound all that bad. But as Malcolm Gladwell shows, herein lie the real problems:

  • The learning losses are cumulative, each year those kids who aren’t engaged over the holidays fall further behind their peers
  • The learning losses for lower socio-economic groups are more severe than for kids who are better off.

What apptEDUde is doing is to bring an Australian National Curriculum compliant game, designed by Australian teachers for Australian kids, that makes it fun for kids to keep their minds engaged over the holidays. It has been tested** by the year 5 students at a school in Sydney, and results have shown that those kids who played the game on their break significantly outperformed those who didn’t in like for like pre- and post-holiday testing.

If we can keep more kids engaged in STEM subjects, we have a better chance at keeping the pipeline intact for those kids who choose to be engineers, scientists and mathematicians as adults. By doing this, we have a much better chance to get true diversity across STEM industries.

If you would like to get your kids to try the app, the beta version for STEM Explorer is available on iOS and Android phone and tablet versions in the respective app stores. It is designed for year 1 & 2 kids, and it’s free.

We’d love your feedback.

**Testing sample size of students at Wilkinson Public School was around 100 only for apptEDUde beta version, so conclusions are limited.