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#StemPower Our Girls seeks to address the low number of female scientists in PHL

There are a handful of female Pinay women who have made a name by pursuing the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) track.

But the Philippines could do better.

“Out of 100 Filipino first grade students, only six will end up with a qualification that would allow them to pursue a career in STEM. Let’s say that there is gender parity.

As they grow older, how many of the female students [who are interested in a STEM track] will end up pursuing it?” asked Love Basillote, the Executive Director of the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd).

For Basillote, there is a lack of Filipino female scientists because the country does not have enough role models in the STEM track. She also highlighted that young girls are often ‘socialized’ by Filipino society into thinking that they cannot pursue STEM-related courses, because doing so does not ‘typify being a woman’.

So how can one change this cultural mindset?

‘For young girls’

Enter #STEMPower Our Girls- a new social impact program spearheaded by the PBEd and the communications firm Evident Communications - which seeks to solve the low number of female scientists in the country.

The campaign is funded by the Investing in Women initiative from the Australian Government.

So what is the strategy? #STEMPower Our Girls will start them young but empowering eleven-year old girls to pursue STEM-related courses in high school.

“We want to start young girls at the right age, with the right content and activities that would encourage them [pursue] STEM. We want young girls to have role models, so that they can tell themselves, ‘Pwede pala. This is achievable. This is something real, aspirational and achievable’,” said Cecile Dominguez-Yujuico, Executive Director of Evident Communications, at the campaign’s launch. 

From August 2018 to September 2019, the #STEMPower Our Girls campaign will be sponsoring 120 female sixth-grade students in receiving specialized training and mentorship from the Philippines’ top women scientists and innovators.

The girls will be selected from schools based in Manila, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro (CDO). A total of 40 girls per area will be chosen, based on academic merit and proclaimed interest.

The selection process also includes an assessment test to ensure the girls’ numeracy and literacy skills.

The chosen participants will be attending career caravans, and a series of talks where they will be able to connect with female STEM leaders. The campaign will also be conducting hands-on-activities to create tangible, achievable goals for them.

Yujuico also emphasized the importance of social media and digital platforms in building a broader community that will support young women in STEM. She mentioned that they will be creating a website featuring women in STEM, as well as open-source learning resources on STEM education.

“It’s not just about the girls. It’s also about their parents and teachers, adults who have an impact. When they see stories that are real, tangible and accessible, it’s going to influence a behavioral change in them. That’s the environment we want to create,” Yujuico said.

The success of the campaign will be determined by young girls’ inclination to apply for science high schools so that they can cement their track in STEM.

‘Worldwide shortage’

On the global scale, 30 percent of the STEM workforce are women. For Basillote, not having enough women in STEM careers can result to economic challenges.

“We are facing a lack of gender parity in the STEM labor force. We think that's bad, not just for inclusion purposes, but also for economic purposes. According to the Australian consulting firm Mckinsey, if there was gender parity in the Philippines’ overall economy labor force, our GDP will grow by 7 percent in 2025,” Basillote said, referring to the country’s ‘best-case scenario’.

Without women in the overall labor force, the Philippines stands to lose forty million dollars every year because of the lack of gender parity, according to Basillote.

Hopefully, with the #STEMPower Our girls campaign, the future will be much brighter for young girls with big dreams. — LA, GMA News