The sky’s the limit for girls if we teach them to shoot for the moon

The Tes reports that this country needs more women to pursue Stem careers – and a new set of Lego figures of Nasa heroines shows us the way to turn girls on to science at an early age.

Nancy Grace Roman was the chief of astronomy in Nasa’s Office of Space Science and the first woman to hold an executive position at the agency; Margaret Hamilton was leader of the team that developed the flight software for the Apollo mission; Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space; and Mae Jemison was the space agency’s first African-American female astronaut.

Getting a Lego figure made of oneself is, obviously, the ultimate triumph, but sadly women in science don’t fare well when it comes to kudos and awards. Only two women have ever won the Nobel Prize in physics. In the entire history of the prizes to date, there have been only 18 female laureates across the three science categories – and 581 male.

Now, we all know that the government recognises the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths subjects – in fact, barely a ministerial speech escapes without a mention of how vital they will be to this country after Brexit. Demand for people with science and engineering skills is huge, but there’s just not enough of them, especially women. And we’re going to need a lot more than pink Lego to get them.

The blame lies partly with employers, who are reluctant to address the needs of women when hiring. Skills minister Anne Milton, speaking this week on apprenticeships, said that employers were missing out on “a wealth of talent” by refusing to look at flexible and part-time hours for women with caring responsibilities.

The second problem is lower down the pipeline, at primary school, and is one that affects both sexes. Recent research by the Wellcome Trust found that more than half of primary classes did not get even two hours of science a week. Unsurprisingly, only 23 per cent of 10- and 11-year-olds reached the expected standard in science in last year’s end-of-primary-school assessments.

Scientific discovery and space travel should be a dream for both girls and boys. Times have changed since 13-year-old Hillary Rodham wrote to Nasa saying that she wanted to be an astronaut and was told that it wasn’t accepting women. Unfortunately, some 50 years later, she found the same with the US presidency. But that’s another story.

Read the full article The sky’s the limit for girls if we teach them to shoot for the moon

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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