A new programme aimed at bridging the gender gap in STEM subjects has launched in Newcastle with major corporate backing.
Girl Geeks, which seeks to promote scientific and technological career paths to women, launched its first campus across Newcastle and Northumbria Universities this week. It will provide female STEM students with careers advice, mentoring services and networking opportunities, as well as encouraging outreach work in schools and universities.
The group’s mission statement attracted the attention of multi-national management consultancy Accenture, which became the first employer to back the scheme.
As part of the programme, the professional services giant will provide female STEM students with skills development opportunities and chances to network with industry role models.
Bob Paton, managing director at Accenture’s Newcastle Delivery Centre said: “This is a vital initiative to encourage more women to pursue STEM careers, both in the North East and across the UK. Businesses – particularly those like Accenture, where we recruit STEM graduates – need to collaborate with the education sector to engage more females who are about to embark on their career paths.”
Mia Chapman, director of Girl Geeks Limited and an MBA student at Newcastle University Business School, set up the programme after being approached by Prof Aad van Moorsel, the university’s Head of computing science, last year.
At the same time, she had been holding conversations with Bob Paton and Northumbria University academics about developing a support programme for female students interested in STEM careers.
Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest that whilst women constitute 46% of the UK workforce, they only take up 13% of STEM sector jobs. Ms Chapman hopes that the Girl Geeks Campus will help redress that balance in the long term.
She said: “Promoting diversity in STEM is vital. Through extensive research and consultation, Girl Geeks Campus has been developed as a concept to increase the role of technical females in education and subsequently industry.
“Our collaboration with academia and industry employers is the next progression for us to support the development of women and the skills needed to have a rewarding career in STEM.”
Professor van Moorsel said: “Computing impacts the quality of our lives more than ever It’s instrumental in many professional activities as well as our leisure activities, and it impacts health care, local activism and entrepreneurship.
“To exploit all these opportunities to the fullest, we want to attract women from all ages to study computer science and pursue computing careers. Our strong relations with local industry help us with our mission, and we are delighted to team up with Girl Geeks and Accenture to bridge the skills gender gap.”
The Girl Geeks Campus will run as a pilot programme at both universities, with a view to expanding the concept to other universities and colleges in the near future.