March 10, 2022, by sustainablenottingham
The STEM Belle – women and girls can be elegant in stilettos and confident in steel toes
Doreen Onyinye Anene is a final year Animal Science PhD researcher at the School of Biosciences. When she’s not investigating the performance variables of hens and their associations with the quality and safety of their eggs, she’s a dedicated representative for women in science from low-income communities and underrepresented groups. Doreen is Founder/ Program Director of The STEM Belle and here tells us more about the project.
What is The STEM Belle?
The STEM Belle is non-profit organisation that is attracting schoolgirls from low-income communities to STEM subjects, retaining them in science classes and advancing them to STEM careers. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics while ‘Belle’ is the French word for ‘Beautiful Girl’. So The STEM Belle means the beautiful girl in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
We believe that women and girls can be elegant in stilettos and confident in steel toes.
The STEM Belle was founded in 2017 with the goal to recalibrate female representation and close the gender gap in STEM fields. Gender-biased stereotypes have eaten deeply into the fabric of society and for years. This has limited so many women and girls, especially from disadvantaged communities, from achieving their full potential.
The STEM Belle was birthed to eliminate cultural and systemic barriers that hinder access and delivery of quality STEM education to girls and their uptake of STEM careers. Through our Attract – Retain – Advance impact model, we’re delivering programs to girls from disadvantaged communities and providing them with the support they need to excel in STEM fields. Programs include:
- STEM awareness creation and mentorship events to provide information, clarity and guidance on exploring and leveraging opportunities in STEM;
- summer bootcamps to expose them to STEM industry experiences;
- STEM Teachers Fellowship to upskill indigenous teachers for improved teaching and learning;
- STEM academic award scheme to reward excellence and encourage effort; and
- the STEM Belle kit to reduce the cost of studying STEM subjects.
Why is this issue close to your heart?
Getting more girls from low-income communities into STEM fields is of high importance to me because projections have shown that by 2030, 75% of all jobs will require top skills in STEM disciplines. Due to the existing gender gaps in STEM fields, women and girls are at risk of losing out. The severity is also higher in poorer populations. Here, girls have untapped potential which if developed, would contribute to elevating their marginalised areas from poverty. They could also go on to solve some of the world’s greatest problems. However, they do not have access to quality STEM teaching, mentorship and infrastructures. Their parents are mostly uneducated and are unable to provide adequate guidance and support to encourage them towards STEM career choices. The few STEM teachers in these schools are largely unqualified and uninspired.
This is a global concern, and I’m dedicated to help solve this problem by developing sustainable bottom-up strategies, leveraging platforms and raising the next generation of female scientists. I’m optimistic that our beneficiaries will also lead thriving STEM careers and become role models to the next generation of girls, thus lifting more marginalised communities out of poverty.
How is The STEM Belle tackling environmental issues?
Sustainability and gender equality are closely linked, with women in poor communities bearing the burden of climate change. Ensuring that more women and girls, especially from deprived communities, get to high-level decision-making tables is pivotal in strengthening global efforts to tackle climate change and environmental sustainability issues.
One way we are contributing to sustainability is through The STEM Belle Lab Equipment Drive. Science is a practical subject, however in disadvantaged schools, science laboratories are poorly equipped or non-existent and STEM teachers are not well trained. This leaves students with no opportunities for practical science training, less retention and advancement. The Lab Equipment Drive is collecting unwanted science equipment from UoN laboratories and reusing them for practical science training in Nigerian schools.
Through The STEM Belle Lab Equipment Drive:
- more girls are equipped with research skills and inspired to explore higher research and STEM careers;
- more girls are supported to lead thriving careers in STEM fields and empowered to contribute and address global issues, such as climate change and sustainability;
- less materials are sent to landfill with unwanted lab equipment being reused to drive development.
What are you hoping to do after your PhD?
I plan to establish a career in agricultural research for international development. At the same time, I will be driving transformational change through STEM education advocacy. I hope to deploy the skills I have gained to work at the intersection of sustainable livestock research and improving the safety of livestock products, food systems policy and international development, improving the profitability of livestock farmers and developing and implementing bottom-up strategies to attract, retain and advance girls and women in STEM fields.
What can people do to support The STEM Belle?
Visibility – We need more people to know about the strategies and good practices we’re developing, and importantly about the impact we have achieved so far. Opportunities to talk about our work on various platforms are always welcome. Support us by following us on social media and subscribing to our newsletter.
Funding – Donations of lab equipment to support the Lab Equipment Drive and funds to cover running costs are gratefully received. We’re also open to collaborations and partnership with similar and complimentary organisations. Get in touch!
Volunteering and strategy adoption– We’d welcome volunteers to help with marketing, fundraising, digital and social media influencing to create more visibility and to attract funds. We’re happy to collaborate with groups who would like to adopt our practices in their local or global communities.
The STEM Belle website – https://thestembelle.com/
Sign up to our Stilettos and Steel toes newsletter – https://thestembelle.com/join-our-community/
We are social – @TheSTEMBelle on all social media platforms
Email – email@example.com