SEEING the disparity between the number of men and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related-careers, the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) is conducting a program that would empower girls to pursue a career in STEM.

A social impact program called #STEMPower Our Girls aims to encourage girls enrolled in Grade 6 to pursue and enroll themselves into a science high school and pursue a career related to it after.

In a recent study by global consulting firm McKenzie found that if there is gender equality for women in the workplace, there can be a $30-billion addition to the national economy.

Love Basillote, PBEd executive director, said they see that the total number of PhD holders in the country is lower compared to other countries. They saw the need to encourage girls to engage in science-related careers.

Basillote believes that through interventions, sixth graders will be more exposed to science and through that, the students will then have a growing interest in careers in science

“We jumped right into the opportunity to change how we look at career planning with our girls in the country and came up with this project,” explained Basillote.

She highlighted that STEM is one of the tracks which can contribute to national growth and development.

Basillote said that the number of girls taking STEM courses is low, with only 27 percent of girls enrolled in physics, 11 percent in electrical engineering, and 15 percent in mechanical engineering.

“There are lot of things that we need to in order to bridge that gap,” said Basillote.

The #STEMPower Our Girls will cater to more than a hundred sixth grade students across the Philippines with three pilot areas, Metro Manila, Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro, with 40 students in each area.

Critical phase

They chose sixth graders since they believe that it is in this phase that girls have a considerable interest in STEM and it diminishes as they enter high school years, as they start thinking that STEM courses and the industry is only dominated by men. If reinforced as early as in sixth grade, their interest is expected to grow.

The program includes career caravans and industry talks which are open to the public. These seminars will be led by women who are in the field so the girls will get exposed to it as well be introduced to different STEM-related careers. There will also be after-school programs or the training exclusively for the 40 selected students.

The training proper, which will last for three months, is designed to increase the interest of the students and to augment lessons to their skills through different science experiments.

The caravan career talk will start in October, while the training seminar workshop for the selected students will be in December.

“It will increase their aptitude and attitude in STEM, so at the end of this year-long project, the goal is to really get the girls exposed to STEM,” said Justine Raagas, PBEd Workforce Development director.

Raagas emphasized that only girls currently enrolled in Grade 6 with an average grade of at least 85 percent in science and math are allowed to apply for the program.

She also clarified that the program will only give training to the selected students in the after school program, and they will not provide scholarships for the schooling of the students. However, she said PBEd will endorse them to science high schools and help facilitate their application.

The application for #STEMPower Our Girls program is already available online, and the parents must be the ones to will fill out the forms.

“We want girls to actually join science high schools,” said Raagas.

The #STEMPower Our Girls program is implemented by PBEd in partnership with Evident Communications, and was initiated by the Australian Government.