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STEM mentoring: How Springer Nature supports girls in STEM

Posted by Rebecca Cox

It’s widely known that women are massively underrepresented in STEM education, making up only 28% of the science, engineering, technology and maths (STEM) workforce. Only 35% of women choose to study STEM subjects after GCSE, with this decreasing to 25% choosing to study them at university (The Gender Gap in STEM Education).

Amongst other approaches, showcasing more female role models in STEM industries can help change this and give girls the confidence to pursue a STEM career. To play our part at Springer Nature we run a mentoring scheme for girls organised in collaboration with Urban Partners. The aim of the scheme is to encourage and support girls currently doing their GCSEs at a local school to pursue further education in STEM subjects. This year around 25 students and 19 volunteer mentors were involved.

After a fantastic year of mentoring, with the girls now looking forward to a well-deserved summer holiday, we look back on the achievements and highlights of the programme and discuss future directions for the scheme.

Something that struck us was how driven and mature the students at the school are. Their ambition to succeed in whichever direction they aspire to was wonderful to see. They cited a variety of reasons for signing up to the programme such as to improve their personal statements, to learn more about the opportunities available to them in STEM post-university, and to give themselves a push academically. All of them, however, were determined to take full advantage of the opportunity and challenge themselves to excel – something which all our mentors agree they have definitely done over the past 8 months!

In our final session, we discussed what advice they’d give to incoming year 11s. A common theme was to start revising much earlier (something I’m sure we all wish we’d taken on board when we were at school), set weekly goals to ensure you stay on track and take advantage of opportunities that arise – like the mentoring scheme. Many also thought the mentoring programme guided them with decisions about their future studies and ultimately reassured them of the vast possibilities available to them.

These students are under a huge amount of pressure; studying for their exams and balancing their work and social lives all while trying to make life-altering decisions at such a young age. It’s great to be a part of a programme that offers them options and gives individual and tailored support for their college applications and beyond. We all know the importance of diversity in STEM – women have been behind many major scientific studies in the last century, including among others: involvement in the first research projects into the impact of radiation treatment on tumours; the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure; and the calculations behind the flight paths of the NASA spacecraft, and this is a direct way of encouraging young women to (hopefully) find their way into STEM professions. Who knows what they may come to discover in the future.