A UNIVERSITY of South Australia program is inspiring Mount Gambier female students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
This week, 15 female Year 11 students from Mount Gambier, Grant and Naracoorte high schools and Tenison Woods College participated in STEM Girls.
The program involved two inquiry days at the UniSA Mount Gambier campus where participants enhanced their knowledge and understanding of STEM concepts, formed networks with like-minded peers and were provided a personal insight into potential career pathways.
Presentations were held by KimberlyClark Millicent Mill process engineer Rhiannon Mathers, SA Water chemical engineer Sally Duffett and Primary Industries and Regions South Australia soils consultant Dr Mel Fraser.
UniSA Connect manager Deb Turley said the program showed female students interested in a STEM career their goals were achievable.
“I think it shows them they can feel good about their passion. They can stand up proudly and say they like mathematics or science,” Ms Turley said.
“It is okay for them to like those subjects as sometimes it could feel as if they may be the odd one out.
“This program is living evidence women do survive in these industries as well, have families, have lives and it is ok.”
Ms Turley said the program had increased in popularity, growing from 16 participants when established in 2015 to now 96 this year.
“A higher number of participating girls are transitioning to university too, with 84pc of STEM Girls participants in 2018 going on to study at university and 72pc deciding on STEM career pathways,” she said.
STEM Girls lead Kim Giannoni said the program was beneficial as it allowed participants to meet and create connections for the future.
“They can feel as though they are part of a group rather than a minority,” Ms Giannoni said.
“A very powerful part of the program are the guest speakers as it shows the girls a real insight and makes their aspirations a reality.”
South Australian secondary school teachers also act as STEM ambassadors through the program as a way to further mentor and educate.
Mount Gambier High School teacher Karen Henman and Grant High School teacher Jo Fisher said the program had always been well-received and they had personally seen a beneficial impact.
In past years, the workshop involved a two-day conference in Adelaide which includes a networking seminar and dinner, but due to COVID-19 it had to be cancelled this year.