Seven educational modules and more than two hundred participants from all over Ukraine. These are the summary results of the first year of the charity initiative STEM is FEM. Sergey Tokarev, an initiator of the project and a Reface investor, tells about this project and what it has achieved.
According to Tokarev, the goal of the initiative is to eliminate gender stereotypes in tech professions (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and to establish gender equality in the STEM fields. To achieve this goal, STEM is FEM conducts free educational events for Ukrainian schoolgirls.
Sergey Tokarev says that they got an idea of the project after noticing a serious gender imbalance in the Ukrainian IT sphere.
‘Today, the whole IT sphere is striving for gender parity. However, the number of women in IT still barely reaches a third of the total number of developers,’ says Tokarev. ‘One of the main problems is that tech specialties have long been stereotypically considered male. When choosing an education, girls are much less likely to choose these areas. This situation should be changed.’
That is how in the fall of 2019, the STEM is FEM project was born. It introduces schoolgirls to various areas of the STEM sphere and motivates them to choose tech specialties for their future careers.
From agro-industry to space – what STEM is FEM teaches girls
The main activity of STEM is FEM is to provide free educational STEM-related modules for Ukrainian schoolgirls. In the first year, the project held seven events of this kind. The girls got acquainted with biotechnology, IT, ecology and energy, robotics, 3D modeling and printing, mechanical engineering, construction and architecture. Each module lasts for two days.
During a module, female speakers from STEM fields share their personal experiences and professional skills. To consolidate the knowledge they get, the participants are offered to do creative tasks on the relevant topic. Over the past year, the girls have designed disinfection robots, bike stations with additional functions, and benches to maintain social distance during the pandemic.
Most of the modules were held in Kyiv and that allowed to immerse the schoolgirls into the studied industries not only with lectures from the specialists, but also to see them with their own eyes, as each offline module included excursions to specialized enterprises. Since the spring of 2020, some of the modules have been running online due to the quarantine restrictions.
‘During the offline modules, our participants visited the aviation museum, the genetic laboratory, the hydrometeorological institute, the dispatch service of Kyiv Electric Networks, as well as GlobalLogic, Beetroot, and a BMW car showroom, where schoolgirls could gain first-hand knowledge about tech processes. When the epidemiological situation in the country stabilizes, we will definitely get this practice back,’ Tokarev emphasized.
Success formula: professional knowledge and motivation
A specific feature of STEM is FEM events is involving not only specialists from specialized industries but also motivational speakers. During the project, the girls have an opportunity to talk to successful women from various fields: top officials, politicians, diplomats, and businesswomen.
‘Motivation is one of the most important keys to success, along with technical skills,’ notes Sergey Tokarev. ‘We let our participants meet successful female ambassadors, ministers, and top managers so that the girls get more faith in themselves and see what success they can achieve by getting more confidence in themselves.’
As part of the project, in addition to STEM-related educational modules, there are held other events, such as meetings with female scientists, excursions to embassies, workshops, webinars on various topics – from cybersecurity to career prospects at the UN. Recently, STEM is FEM opened the LitMINT youth reading club in cooperation with the Goethe Institute.
Friends of STEM is FEM
During its first year, the project has got many friends. Among the STEM is FEM’s partners there are the US and Finnish embassies in Ukraine, the UN office in Ukraine and its divisions – UNICEF and UN Women, the Goethe Institute in Ukraine, America House Kyiv, as well as Beetroot, GlobalLogic, BMW Ukraine, and many others.
‘The problem of gender imbalance in STEM is global. And it can only be solved by joint efforts. We are very pleased that such serious organizations and companies are joining this process and helping to draw attention to this problem in Ukraine,’ says Sergey Tokarev.
For the next year, the project is planning to introduce the participants to artificial intelligence, pharmacology, space, and many other areas of STEM. And the next module dedicated to agro-industry is taking place on December 12-13.