Just as punk music challenged the status quo when it first emerged, STEAMpunk Girls is a movement challenging stereotypes. An initiative of the Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Creative Intelligence Unit at the University of Technology Sydney, the program is aimed at empowering young women through combining STEM, entrepreneurship and creativity.
One of the driving forces behind the program is Maya Marcus who is using her background in communications to get the program’s message out to students, schools and teachers. The program aims to engage with girls aged between 12 and 16, to lift their awareness of STEM and the many opportunities it provides across a wide range of fields.
STEAMpunk Girls has been designed for young women, by young women and this year, the program was piloted in 64 high schools in Sydney. Maya and the STEAMpunk Girls team have been busy gaining feedback from schools, fine tuning the program and training teachers to encourage STEM.
Maya is passionate about providing girls with the skills they need to help innovate, problem solve and improve their local communities – and the country as a whole. By encouraging girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM), the program will give young women a platform to have a voice in society.
“The beauty of the program is that it promotes a transdisciplinary approach to problem solving and teaches young women how to take charge of their futures,” says Maya. “The ultimate aim is to create equal opportunities for women who pursue STEAM study and career pathways - and to disrupt expectations about the role and place of women in Australia. After all, STEM roles influence the really important and essential issues in society such as food production, shelter and health outcomes, so it’s vital that women have equal input into these industries.”
Research shows that when there are more women in STEM the benefits include more innovation, less stagnation and more functional teams in an organisation. The goal of STEAMpunk Girls is to achieve a 50 per cent increase in women in STEM, so they can contribute to what the STEM industry looks like – and also be heard more by the industry and government.
“Interestingly, a number of Asian countries including Malaysia have already achieved gender parity in many STEM fields,” says Maya. “Brunei and Vietnam are also close to parity, while it’s western countries where old-fashioned stereotypes exist and have been reinforced.”
That’s why Maya hopes to travel to a number of countries where gender parity has been achieved and, in some cases, even surpassed. This will enable her to study successful international programs and Maya’s learnings will contribute to the body of knowledge around effective attraction and retention strategies for young women in STEM.
These findings will then help to equip high schools, universities and industry with information and strategies to empower women within these industries. The findings of this travel will be applied to the STEAMpunk Girls program, UTS outreach, and disseminated through presentations and teacher workshops.