The successes of Women Like Me 2018-2019

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In 2018, Women Like Me launched at UWE as a tiered mentoring project for women in engineering. Delivered by Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers and Dr Laura Hobbs, the project was a great success, engaging over 10,000 children with engineering outreach and significantly improving engineers’ confidence. Some findings of the first year’s project report are summarised here.

Only 12% of engineers in the UK are women. For democratic, utilitarian and equity reasons this is not enough. Both recruitment and retention are important – more girls need to connect with engineering as a creative, socially conscious, collaborative discipline, and more women need to be supported to make a difference in the workplace. 


Funded in 2018-2019 by a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious grant, the ‘Curiosity Connections – Women Like Me’ project aimed to change this through tiered mentoring and role modelling. Previous research by Laura Fogg-Rogers indicates how important peer group and leadership support is for women, providing vicarious experience and changing social norms. This means that women need peer support to thrive in the workplace, and that girls need to see women succeeding in STEM careers in order to feel that engineering is for them. 


This project therefore paired 21 mid-career (senior) women engineers with 21 junior women engineers (less than five years’ experience) in the Bristol and Bath area, in order to provide career and public engagement mentoring. The outreach activities resulted in over 10,240 children being engaged in public engagement with women engineers, through a variety of methods including school visits, public events and nationwide online presentations. 

Junior engineers felt significantly more equipped to take part in public engagement


The junior engineers reported that they now feel significantly more equipped to take part in public engagement; 54% of junior engineers felt fairly well equipped before the project and this increased to 68% after the project, with 38% indicating they were very well equipped. Similarly, the mean score on the Engineering Outreach Self-Efficacy Scale significantly improved from 6.80 to 8.41 (out of 10). This indicates that the engineers are now much more confident to undertake education outreach, and are then more likely to continue public engagement following the project. 

The report therefore concludes that mentoring is highly important to ensure a supportive workplace, which means that women are more likely to be retained in the engineering industry.

The full report can be downloaded from the UWE research repository and a paper in Journal of Science Communication, drawing on the results, is now available (open access).

Women Like Me will relaunch in October 2019. To express an interest in taking part, please register your email address here.

EDM staff attend WISE conference

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On 14th May, Lecturer in Engineering Management Dr Udonna Okeke and Research Fellow and Women Like Me coordinator Dr Laura Hobbs attended the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) conference in London.

Hosted at the IET, the 2019 conference offered delegates a range of keynote speakers, plenary and panel sessions and breakout workshops. Highlights included insights into how women job hunt, the plasticity of our brains and the complexity of ethics in robotics and AI. Sessions can now be viewed online.

Udonna was able to make some useful connections for his project BAME Girls in Engineering, while Laura was able to discuss the new platform to support girls in STEM, My Skills My Life, with our Women Like Me partners from WISE.

Women Like Me featured by Bristol Women’s Voice

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Bristol Women’s Voice have featured our Women Like Me project, run by Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers and Dr Laura Hobbs, on their blog.

Bristol Women’s Voice is a powerful voice for women making women’s equality in Bristol a reality. They make sure that when key decisions are taken in the city women’s voices have been heard and their concerns acted upon, working to increase awareness of women’s rights and to make sure services meet women’s needs. They bring women together to share ideas and experiences, support campaigns and celebrate success so that together we can make Bristol a showcase for women’s involvement, empowerment and equality.

Our work was highlighted in the blog as

“Revisiting and rewriting a traditionally male-dominated and gendered history has never been more topical and this initiative has help ensure that female engineers and in other STEM roles, past and present, are afforded the recognition that they deserve.”

We are very proud to that Engineering our Future and Women Like Me have been highlighted! The full post can be read here.

Sarah Guppy show and women in STEM panel discussion recorded for schools

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Back in November, Show of Strength‘s production about Sarah Guppy – engineer, inventor, campaigner, designer, reformer, writer, environmentalist and business woman – opened to great reviews.

These included comments such as:

“You won’t look at Isambard Kingdom Brunel or the Clifton Suspension Bridge in quite the same way ever again after seeing this piece.”

and:

“An inspiring and witty homage to someone who deserves a far more central place in Bristol’s – and Britain’s – commercial and industrial history.”

and crucially:

“Please find a way of getting this into every school in Bristol.”

Which is what Show of Strength, in collaboration with UWE Bristol, Future Quest, Clifton Suspension Bridge and the SS Great Britain, did yesterday.

Girls from Bristol Brunel Academy and Bristol Metropolitan Academy, coordinated by Future Quest’s Gemma Adams, attended an exclusive showing of Sarah Guppy: The Bridge, The Bed, The Truth in UWE’s filming studio at the university’s Bower Ashton campus. The performance was filmed, thanks to UWE’s Abigail Davies, and followed by a panel discussion on women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) which was also recorded so that both elements of yesterday’s production can be shown in schools.

The panel discussion was chaired by UWE’s Dr Madge Dresser, an expert in social and cultural British history, who recently put Sarah Guppy forward for inclusion in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. On the panel were civil engineeer Trish Johnson (the first female Bridgemaster of Clifton Suspension Bridge), mechanical engineer Nicola Grahamslaw (Conservation Engineer for the SS Great Britain), mechanical engineer Rachel Gollin (who has extensive experience of engineering various sectors across the world), Dr Laura Fogg Rogers (Senior Research Fellow at UWE; Women Like Me), Dr Laura Hobbs (Research Fellow at UWE; Women Like Me) and Miriam Cristofoletti (Robotics student at UWE’s Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

“It’s still not great for women in STEM but at least we’re allowed to be engineers and scientists now!”

Dr Laura Fogg Rogers, UWE Bristol

Discussion ranged from why girls don’t choose STEM subjects to the best thing about an engineer and back again, via conversation about what engineers can expect to earn, how to get into engineering and more.

Feedback was positive – Future Quest described hearing from a panel of women in STEM and their thoughts and advice about their careers as

“both inspiring and thought provoking”

And it is hoped that the film will inspire many more school students in future.

Header image shows left to right: Trish Johnson (Clifton Suspension Bridge), Nicola Grahamslaw (SS Great Britain), Rachel Gollin, Kim Hicks as Sarah Guppy, Dr Laura Fogg Rogers (UWE Bristol), Dr Laura Hobbs (UWE Bristol), Miriam Cristofoletti (UWE Bristol), Sheila Hannon (Producer, Show of Strength), Dr Madge Dresser (UWE Bristol) and Gemma Adams (UWE Bristol/Future Quest).

Female engineers come together for outreach surgery at Curiosity Connections 2019

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Curiosity ConnectionsWomen Like Me is a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious funded project. Curiosity Connections is a Bristol-based network for primary Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) teachers and science communicators, while Women Like Me pairs senior engineers with junior engineers for mentoring, with the junior engineers undertaking outreach activities with children and young people.

The Curiosity Connections Conference 2019 took place at UWE Bristol on 2nd February – more to follow about that! As well as the three fantastic workshop rotations on offer, we also provided an outreach surgery for our female engineers to come along, try out some outreach activities, talk through any thoughts they have about outreach and catch up with each other.

Run by Dr Laura Hobbs, research fellow in science communication at UWE Bristol and coordinator of Women Like Me, and Dr Debbie Lewis, technical team leader for molecular biology at UWE and experienced outreach leader, the session saw our engineers trying to cut A5 pieces of paper so that they could step through them (a fantastic resource provided by the Year of Engineering) and build towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows. We were also joined by our WISE Women Like Me partner Sarah Behenna, who was recently involved with the development of the new WISE resource My Skills My Life.

Credit: David Marshall (University of Bristol/Virtual Natural History Museum)

Such was the concentration and enthusiasm for the tasks – and encouraging and supportive atmosphere – that we decided to extend our scheduled 50 minute session to more than two hours, only stopping for lunch. Our endeavours with technical paper-cutting also caught the attention of exhibitors at the conference expo; the Virtual Natural History Museum stand soon became adorned with a perfectly-executed paper ring!

Women Like Me presented at the 2019 Association for Science Education conference

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UWE’s Women Like Me project, run by Dr Laura Fogg Rogers and Dr Laura Hobbs, was featured in a presentation about making STEM for everyone at the Association for Science Education Annual Conference https://www.ase.org.uk/annual-conference today.

Women Like Me is a peer mentoring and outreach project aimed at boosting female representation in engineering.  The project pairs senior women engineers with junior women engineers to give them mentoring support as they start out in their engineering careers. In turn, junior women undertake engineering education outreach in schools and at public events in the Bristol and Bath area. Engineering is a creative, socially conscious, and collaborative discipline, and this project aims to support girls and women to make a difference in society.

The ASE conference is Europe’s largest Science Education Continuing Professional Development conference. In 2019 it took place at the University of Birmingham. “Women Like Me – Role modelling and outreach for women and girls in engineering” was authored by Laura Fogg Rogers and Laura Hobbs and presented by Laura Hobbs within their “Making STEM for everyone: reaching under-served audiences” session, as part of strand for of the conference for all education stages. The full conference programme can be viewed here.



Women Like presented at Association for Science Education conference

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UWE’s Women Like Me project, run by Dr Laura Fogg Rogers and Dr Laura Hobbs, was featured in a presentation about making Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths accessible to under-represented groups at the Association for Science Education Annual Conference today.

Women Like Me is a peer mentoring and outreach project aimed at boosting female representation in engineering.  The project pairs senior women engineers with junior women engineers to give them mentoring support as they start out in their engineering careers. In turn, junior women undertake engineering education outreach in schools and at public events in the Bristol and Bath area. Engineering is a creative, socially conscious, and collaborative discipline, and this project aims to support girls and women to make a difference in society.

ASE’s Annual Conference is Europe’s largest science education Continuing Professional Development conference. The 2019 conference is being held 9th-12th January at the University of Birmingham. This National conference brings together the best speakers and practitioners all in one place with 504 sessions, 473 speakers and 2,000 delegates.

“Women Like Me: mentoring and outreach for women and girls in engineering” was authored by Laura Hobbs and Laura Fogg Rogers and presented by Laura Hobbs, as part of the Making STEM for everyone: reaching under-served audiences session of the conference.



Women Like Me featured in Science in Public conference presentation

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UWE’s Women Like Me project, run by Dr Laura Fogg Rogers and Dr Laura Hobbs, was featured in a presentation about increasing visibility of minority groups at STEM events at the Science in Public conference today.

Women Like Me is a peer mentoring and outreach project aimed at boosting female representation in engineering.  The project pairs senior women engineers with junior women engineers to give them mentoring support as they start out in their engineering careers. In turn, junior women undertake engineering education outreach in schools and at public events in the Bristol and Bath area. Engineering is a creative, socially conscious, and collaborative discipline, and this project aims to support girls and women to make a difference in society.

Science in Public 2018 was a conference “centred on the multiple ways that scholars have sought to intervene in, understand, talk about, and co-produce with, the natural sciences – whether from the perspective of Science and Technology Studies (STS), Public Understanding of Science, Science Communication, Medical Sociology, the History of Science, Social and Cultural Theory, Science Journalism or some other intellectual inheritance”. It took place at the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University.

“MI STEM – Improving the visibility of Minorities in STEM at science events” was authored by Laura Fogg Rogers and Laura Hobbs and presented by Laura Fogg Rogers, as part of the Communication, Education and Engagement strand of the conference.

Women Like Me launch event – becoming a leader in engineering

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Women Like Me has officially launched!

On 18th October we brought together our female engineers from around the Bristol and Bath region, who will be either mentoring other engineers, or undertaking outreach and public engagement activities with schools and communities to raise uptake and retention of women in engineering, and inspire the next generation.

It was a busy and rewarding day, and this is what we got up to.

Welcome Training – Becoming a Leader in Engineering

We started the day by welcoming our junior engineers, who joined us from a range of companies in the Bristol and Bath region. After introductions to each other and the scheme by Dr Laura Fogg Rogers, our first training session, delivered by Dr Laura Hobbs focused on STEM outreach, public engagement and working with schools. What is it, why do we do it and how do we go about it?

 

We then facilitated STEM Ambassador registration for our volunteers, and get together for an exchange of outreach ideas. Our senior engineers, who will be mentoring our junior engineers, joined us at lunch time ready for a packed afternoon. After meeting each other, mentors and mentees received an introduction to role modelling from Laura Fogg Rogers, followed by a session on mentoring for women by UWE’s Dr Harriet Short.

 

 

Participants brought with them something that represents what mentoring means to them, with lots of discussion to be had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The engineer training closed with bespoke training on Leadership in Engineering from Wide Eyed Group‘s Caroline Morris, looking at the role of leaders, and how our leadership style can be used to encourage and influence others. We explored what it takes to be vulnerable and true to yourself, and how your unique qualities help your own leadership style.

Professionals from across the region then met to discuss science education, outreach, women in STEM and more, with the opportunity to receive free People Like Me taster training from WISE‘s Sarah Behenna.

If you have any questions about Curiosity Connections – Women Like Me or would like to support the project, please get in touch at engineeringourfuture@uwe.ac.uk.

Making STEM for everyone – a new practitioner resource

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Would you like to help girls engage with Physics? Or  make sure your science engagement is inclusive? May you’d just like to know how strong your unconscious bias is?

The Science Communication Unit at UWE Bristol has published a new practitioner guide which can point you to the resources to help with this, and more.

Making STEM for everyone: Resources for supporting people from under-represented groups to engage with Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering is a compilation of useful online tests, guides and materials written by Dr Laura Hobbs and Dr Laura Fogg Rogers, who also run Engineering Our Future project Women Like Me.

Drawing on a range of project outputs, industry schemes, toolkits and reports from across the STEM landscape, the guide provides a compilation of information and resources to assist anyone wishing to reach people who may face barriers to engaging with STEM subjects.

The contents of the guide are:

Background
General information on under-represented groups in STEM and what influences participation in STEM

Science capital
Understanding the term ‘science capital’ and its application

Diversity in science, positive role models and case studies
Examples of people from under-represented groups in STEM, and resources to support the concept of ‘STEM for all’

What could a STEM career look like?
Examples of roles using STEM

Engineering in a different light
Engineering might not be what you think it is…

Inclusion in the classroom
Inclusive STEM teaching support

Breaking the mould
Challenges to stereotypes in popular culture

Encouraging people into STEM
Resources to support interests in STEM

If you’re interested in more expert guidance, check the Science Communication Unit website for a full list of available practitioner guides.