Reflections from the YESTEM project partner: Stemettes
By s.godec, on 11 February 2022
Challenging STEM Status Quo
This post was written by Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, Lucy Cox and Sarah Mehrali from Stemettes.
When Stemettes was approached about joining the Youth Equity and STEM (YESTEM) project, we jumped at the chance. Although we knew that from the onset that youth equity had been at the heart of all our initiatives, we relished the opportunity to formalise and further develop our practices, work with teams to develop a tool to measure our success in the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) space and to document our work as a resource for the partners who support our interventions.
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE created Stemettes in 2013 to ensure girls, young women, and non-binary young people between the ages of 5-25 know that technical fields are for them. She was joined by Programme Manager Lucy Cox as co-researchers on the YESTEM project. The Stemettes’ mission is to engage, inform and connect young people into STEAM fields with our ‘Free, Fun, Food’ ethos. As of 2021, Stemettes has reached 55,000 young people across the UK, Ireland and parts of Europe.
Stemettes run more than 50 interventions each year – a mixture of intersectional cohort programmes (including mentoring and certification academies), impactful events and inspirational content shared across platforms. These interventions improve perceptions of STEM, raise awareness of options within STEM, grow the networks these young people have across STEM and improve their self and STEM confidence.
The development of the Equity Compass as part of the YESTEM project has meant that organisations like ourselves in an informal STEM learning setting can now use the tool at every point of their planning to check that they are developing ideas and strategies in line with equitable practices that they have committed to adopting. We pride ourselves on our ability to reach out to and connect with minority communities and the Equity Compass has allowed us to identify what we do well and what we can do better.
For example, we are conscious that many of our programme participants may not have access to a laptop required for a virtual event and therefore build in the offer of a laptop to be posted out into our workflows. Additionally, we offer free industry recognised certifications in cybersecurity, Python coding and agile training courses in an attempt to redistribute access to resources that are often the reserve of sections of society with parents/networks in the know. We seek to broaden what counts as STEM, who can pursue a career in STEM, trying to challenge stereotypes and dominant ways of doing things that have long excluded many women and non-binary people from the field. We also practise what we preach in terms of diversity, inclusion and belonging and the make up of Team Stemette reflects our audiences. However, confidence about what we are getting right does not mean that we are always across our blind spots, so tools like the Equity Compass will act as a torch that shines a light on our oversights and enables efficient development toward equitable practice so that we can support our participants as best as we can.
The next steps for Stemettes lie in developing the reach and programmes we have across the UK’s regional landscape, extending the Stemette provision to parents, guardians and teachers (who the Stemettes call Influencers) and powerfully transitioning alumnae into industry powerhouses. This is already happening, but not fast enough. We are confident that the Equity Compass will assist us in meeting our organisational goals, ultimately leading to a more evidence-based approach to analysing our outcomes and considering how equitable they are. This research project has inspired us to begin even more work in this space – we look forward to the legacy of YESTEM!
For more details about how Stemettes have been challenging the status quo as part of partnering with the YESTEM project, see this short film.