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Saturday club tackles gender stereotyping

16 March 2009

University undergraduate Cath Jackson, Discover! Club mentorUniversity undergraduate Cath Jackson, Discover! Club mentor

A group of University academics are giving up their Saturday mornings to take part in an initiative to encourage more girls to consider a career in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and construction.

The all-female experts are on a quest to dispel gender stereotypes around these subjects by running a series of special events to inspire Year 9 girls who may not have considered moving into these fields.

Discover! Clubs are hands-on taster sessions delving into the worlds of science, technology, engineering and maths. With the sessions held previously at the University already proving a success, this year saw the initiative expand into the Swansea and Gwent regions through Women in Science, Engineering and Construction (WISE) funding from the Welsh Assembly Government.

Dr Vicki Stevenson, Welsh School of Architecture and chair of Wise (Women into Science, Engineering and Construction) in Wales is one of the organisers of the sessions. She said: "Although we may not realise it, there is lots of subtle stereotyping happening throughout childhood which mean that even before the end of primary school girls are picking up the idea that engineering and science are not suitable for girls. These sessions are designed to show just how rewarding careers in these subject areas can be regardless of background and gender.

"Since expanding into the other regions, the number of girls with access to Discover! has tripled. We have also been able to increase the range of topics to include glaciology, bio-remediation, forensic techniques and human computing."

The original Cardiff and Vale Discover! club has been running for three years. This year it has included topics such as DNA analysis, developing an artificial hand, mineral based textile design and using the Faulkes Telescope whose operations centre is in the School of Physics and Astronomy. They will also have the opportunity to go on industrial visits to the RWE nPower power station at Aberthaw, a Carillion civil engineering project on the M4 and British Airways Maintenance Cardiff.

Several of the Cardiff ‘Discover!’ sessions have taken place at the University involving more than eight female academics and researchers, including Science Made Simple director, Wendy Sadler and support from Professor Karen Holford, the first female professor in the School of Engineering and the winner of the 2007 WISE Excellence Award.

They sessions are jointly organised with Careers Wales Cardiff and Vale, Careers Wales Gwent, Swansea University, Careers Wales West and Construction Skills.

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