Monday 18 December 2017

You Can Be Who You Want to Be! Stay #PrettyCurious

It was open afternoon at my girls school last week and they were keen to show me all their hard work

I think it is a very sad world to live in where any child has their dreams and horizons clipped and is expected to develop in a certain way and do certain things when they grow older. When my Mum was young (she is now in her late 60's) it was very much expected that once she married and had children she would give up her work and stay home to care for her family.

Perhaps because of this my Mum was determined that I should undertake any career I chose and as such I was the first in my family to go to University, where I studied Hotel Management. My parents have always been very proud of my career and supported my choice to keep working once I had my own children. I did change fields at that time and moved to work in a large entrepreneurial University near my home as a HR Manager. During my ten years at the University of Hertfordshire (UH) I undertook my Masters and worked in HR and training, supporting our staff to deliverer the best education to our students.

Working at UH was very inspiring and an eye-opening experience as the disciplines taught were vast and it was the first time I was seeing women in high level positions in the fields of engineering, medicine, technology and science. I can clearly recall the first time I went along to see Prof. Dr. Kerstin Dautenhahn (professor of Artificial Intelligence) KASPAR showcase and felt so proud that a women was leading in a field that is traditionally dominated by men.

Thank goodness the UK seems to be moving in the right direction and thanks to forward-thinking schools, colleges, universities and employers we are seeing some positive trends for girls going into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers. However it is still not enough, only 1 in 4 people working in core STEM roles are women and this means we are underrepresented (source).

This is the door to the year 6 classroom at my girls school. I love that is supports, encourages and breaks all stereotypes

I was thrilled to hear that EDF Energy has been working on a campaign called Pretty Curious for the last couple of years. This is an ongoing campaign whereby they are actively targeting teenage girls and showing them how careers within STEM can be exciting, fulfilling and even world changing. I love how they are taking real life role models and demonstrating to girls the possibilities that are out there. Have a watch of their 360 virtual reality video to see how three young women are using their skills to do some amazing things within the fields of STEM.

As I was watching I was really struck by this quote from one of the women Claire C, who works on an off shore wind farm as a Research Engineer "I don't think my job even existed when I was 12, its definitely important to keep an open mind" and she sums up the situation perfectly. We are living in rapidly changing times and my girls are currently 10 years old. Who knows what jobs they could do in ten years but to even be considering a new role they have to be curious and have an open mind. It is something I've always told all my children - you can do whatever you want to with hard work and application.

When I started to talk to my girls about the #PrettyCurious campaign and asked how their primary school is encouraging them to think about their careers, they both (separately) give me the exact same answer. That they are told at school that they can "do what you want to do and be who you want to be" and I think that's wonderful. I couldn't hope for the school helping them to widen their horizons any more than that. Even with that kind of encouragement it is still difficult to know what kind of career your child could go in to and once they start to take their GCSE options in year 9 it is important for them to have some idea of the kind of field they might like to work within. So why not encourage them to take the teen quiz to broaden their horizons and there is also a parent quiz to broaden yours.

Miss M was very excited to see that her quiz picked her out to be a rocket scientist and when I took the parents quiz using the knowledge I have of Miss M, it suggested she might do well as a Tech Start-up Founder. Well those two career options sure beat the hat-maker that I was matched with when I was at secondary school!

You'll see all my children talking about their hopes for their future careers in the video below but I thought I'd share this excellent video from EDF Energy of Florence Adepoju, cosmetic scientist & founder of MDMflow talking about her chosen career. Miss M was super excited when she saw this video as she loves all things make-up, nails and hair (as many tweens do) but equally she wasn't sure she just wanted to be a stylist and of course it had never occurred to her before she could be a cosmetic scientist and use her strong academic skills combined with her passion for make-up. You really mustn't underestimate the effect that a positive female role model can have on your daughter.

I then had a chat with my 14 year old son (year 9) and asked about his school and he was really positive about how school are encouraging all students (not just girls) to consider STEM careers and they are actively putting on clubs, having external speakers and attending STEM career fairs to help the children know what is available to them.

From what I can see EDF Energy are really doing some pioneering work in this area. For their Pretty Curious campaign they have teamed up with Star Wars: The Last Jedi for the newly released movie featuring two great role models, Rey and Rose, who use their STEM skills to great effect in the film. It is this kind of adoption of a cult film and making it relatable that will have an impact on many a girl.

Over the last few days I've chatted to quite a few parents, teachers and children about STEM careers in the UK and I have been reassured that the tide is changing and girls are recognising that they can do anything a boy can. As I am privileged to live in a community where we have young people from other countries come and live with us for 6-12 months I thought it would be interesting to see how other countries are managing to get girls into STEM careers and I spoke to young women from Spain, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Germany and South Korea. Have a watch and see what careers these women have chosen and if they have been able to pursue them without obstacles.

Why not sign up for the Pretty Curious email list and stay up to date with with is happening and see if there are events in your area that your daughter or other teens that you know might like to get involved with.

Thanks for reading and come on, let's work together to help our children keep an open mind and be #PrettyCurious about what the future holds for them.

Why not pin this post for later?

Disclosure: I’m working with EDF Energy and BritMums to promote the #PrettyCurious programme. Visit Pretty Curious for more information and advice. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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