Opening girls’ eyes to a career in the sciences

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020 on 11 February was celebrated at the University of Essex’s Colchester Campus with a major Make Happen outreach event to promote STEM subject careers to young female students.

The Women into STEM event gave more than 50 female students the opportunity to discover more about a career in science, technology, engineering or maths.

women into STEM day at the university of essex
Women into STEM day, organised by Make Happen, was held at the University of Essex on 11 February 2020.

The day was organised by Make Happen, which is part of the Uni Connect programme funded by the Office for Students, based at the University’s Colchester Campus.

The year 9 students from Colchester Academy and Thomas Lord Audley School, attended talks and STEM workshops, and got the chance to explore a university campus and understand a little more about student life. Plus, they had VIP access to STEM lecturers, keynote speakers and women with established careers in STEM subjects.

The day kicked-off with an introductory talk by life sciences lecturer Dr Aurélie Villedieu, with A Peek into the World of Microbiology. This was followed by workshops giving the students the opportunity to get their hands on some scientific equipment, including the Medical Mavericks workshop whereby the students could take fake blood, record and print an ECG, try keyhole surgery and see inside the body using an ultrasound machine. Popular sessions of ‘tech speed-networking’ – with a group of successful women STEM-professionals taking the time to talk to the students about their careers – rounded the day off.

Sue Green, careers lead at Thomas Lord Audley School said: “This has really opened the girls’ eyes as to the various opportunities there are in different areas of STEM, and to show them this area is open to girls, and girls can do it. Make Happen has given us the opportunity to open young people’s eyes to so many opportunities; we are so lucky.

“We know it’s working because our figures show us, and I’d say any school not involved with outreach programmes is losing out. We’ve got an amazing university on our doorstep, and our students can see that you don’t have to move away from home to come to university and get a really good degree.”

Students’ comments on the day:

“I like science and learning about body parts. I wanted to find out more about what women can do in the areas that are stereotypically male jobs, like doctors.”

“Women can do stuff that people think only men can do. I’ve always wanted to be a nurse or a paramedic or doctor, and this had made me even more keen. It’s been really interesting, and interactive.”

“I’m sure I want to go to university for the learning experience. You learn things in a lot more detail than you do in secondary school, and you can focus on your subject a lot more.”

“I’ve never done any of this stuff, but I’ve found it really interesting. It’s made me think more about a career in science.”

About Make Happen
Based at the University of Essex, Make Happen is a partner of the Uni Connect programme (formerly known as the National Collaborative Outreach Programme, or NCOP) funded by the Office for Students. Make Happen phase one from 2017 to 2019 reached 66,500 students across Essex where progression to higher education is lower than expected given the GCSE results of the area. Make Happen phase two, which has been running since August 2019 and will continue until July 2021, continues to deliver a varied programme of activities, supported by continuous evaluation and data analysis to provide a rigorous evidence base for the programme’s effectiveness.

"Women can do stuff that people think only men can do. I’ve always wanted to be a nurse or a paramedic or doctor, and this had made me even more keen. It’s been really interesting, and interactive."