school

The key to your daughter's future success.

Simone, my dear friend and mother of two, was explaining to me how she was going about choosing a school for her two daughters.

She grew up and now lives in Canberra. She went to one of the city’s most prestigious and exclusive private girls’ schools. 25 years ago, Simone would likely have just enrolled her daughters there so that they could follow in their mother’s footsteps.

But in 2016, Simone is carefully asking prospective schools one question.

What’s your plan for better education for girls in science, technology, engineering and maths?

In her latest Lenny Letter, a special science and engineering edition, Lena Dunham writes, “Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (fun and easy acronym: STEM!) are not worlds we associate with women, yet they are full of female pioneers…”

She’s right. There are plenty of women who are kicking serious goals in STEM.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a young and highly achieving mechanical engineer, Dr Elizabeth Blackburn is a biologist and a Nobel Laureate, Fiona Wood is a burns specialist and former Australian of the Year.

But men still dominate STEM, and girls don’t have or know about female STEM role models.

In 2012, research funded by Lockheed Martin and conducted by Girl Scouts US, showed that fewer than 60 per cent of girls have met a woman working in a STEM career, while closer to home, Professionals Australia, the peak body representing Engineers, says that in 2011 only 28 per cent of the STEM qualified workforce were women.

A further complicating factor for all kids in coming years is the decline in industries like manufacturing. There’s a reason Malcolm Turnbull, though questions remain about details and implementation, kicked off 2016 with a plan for innovation in Australia.

Simone is convinced that in Australia where there has been and will likely continue to be a huge decline in industries like manufacturing, and that her daughters and yours will probably work in jobs we can’t even image in industries that don’t even exist yet.

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So, she’s asking, how do we prepare them for that?

On a cold July night, over 4000 kids participated in a coding event. Moonhack, run by Code Club, aims to set a world record, having the most children participating in coding exercises and games at one time.

Maddie, a seven-year-old from Brisbane is taking part.

Her mum, Jenny Devine explained to Mamamia that, "she's a very geeky kid kind of naturally and I try to enable that as much as I can.

"She loves Minecraft, she plays it constantly. And also the learn to code apps you can get for kids on the iPad. That's how she got into it."

Jenny agrees that there needs to be a strong focus on STEM based education.

"I look at Maddie and what she's learning at school and the focus on computers has become so much more apparent.

"You want to make sure they have the right skills to get the jobs of the future, whereas we just focussed on the basics of English, Maths and Science. Now the basics are computing and technology."

Of course, coding and STEM aren't just the key for your daughter's future success, they're key to your son's future success as well. But boys have great role models and are pushed into those fields almost naturally.

We're headed in the right direction with girls and STEM, but there's plenty more we can do to help.

Code Club is a network of volunteer run free after-school coding clubs for kids aged seven to nine. Currently 45,000 Australian kids are members of a Code Club. Find a Code Club near you on the Code Club website.

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Mamamia is funding 100 girls in school, every day.

So just by spending time with Mamamia, you’re helping educate girls, which is the best tool to lift them out of poverty.

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