Nigel Helliwell Pens Blog About Gender Stereotypes and STEM

Nigel Helliwell, head of St Faith’s School in Cambridge, argues that tackling the issues of gender stereotyping in STEM subjects is vital given its importance in the modern world.

Last year, Adam Hargreaves, son of the late Roger Hargreaves, creator of the well-known Mr Men and Little Miss books, introduced his latest personality – Little Miss Inventor. The timing of the arrival of this character, empowered by her ability to create new inventions to help her friends, is, I suspect, no coincidence. 2018 was the UK Year of Engineering. A time to celebrate the considerable contribution of engineering to our society and more importantly, to recognise the importance of engineering in our children’s futures.

The timing of the arrival of Little Miss Inventor is not, I believe, the only coincidence. As a youngster who uses her brain power to create solutions to solve practical problems – the true essence of engineering – Little Miss Inventor is the perfect role model for our young generation, both girls and boys. Barely a week passes by without the role of women in STEM industries featuring in the news and the need for schools to do more to break the stereotypical male image of these school subjects. When Dame Ann Dowling, professor of mechanical engineering and deputy vice-chancellor at Cambridge University, spoke at our prize giving, she pointedly referred to the image of the typical engineer, a man on a building site wearing a high visibility jacket and hard hat. Why, she asked, would young women want to pursue a profession which is so visibly male?

Most commentators on this subject agree. We must do more at the earliest stages to encourage children to develop naturally, without gender determining their choice of subjects in schools and ultimately, their future careers. Given the importance of STEM in the modern world, tackling the issues of gender stereotyping in STEM subjects is vital….

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