Mentoring campaigns for women to join STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers have proven to be successful in several European countries

As demonstrated in a study on methods used to reduce gender and diversity gaps in smart mobility, carried out in the framework of the TInnGO project.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of International Day of Girls in ICT under the theme “Connected Girls, Creating Brighter Futures”. On the occasion of this celebration, TInnGO shares the research included in the deliverable entitled “Case study/discussion of methods used to reduce diversity gaps in Smart Mobility”, that shows the gender imbalances at the European level in STEM education, especially in the transport sector and smart mobility.

The main aim of this research is to collect data and experiences in EU countries -through the network of TInnGO hubs– to analyse how gender equality in STEM education and R&D can be improved.

According to the study, a wide network of mentoring initiatives can be found in various European countries but, unfortunately, only a few of them are explicitly focusing on bringing women closer to the transport sector. Nevertheless, one of the key success factors is the combined work of education institutions (mainly university, but also secondary schools) and companies to explain the potential for female students in the technical disciplines and counteracting stereotypes that keep women away from male-dominated work areas.

In fact, most of the initiatives are directed to secondary school students to show opportunities for women in technical universities, and the TInnGO study points out that the school is the primary environment to promote initiatives aimed at increasing the interest of women towards STEM topics.

The three successful initiatives reported in this research have been developed in Italy -at the Politecnico di Torino University (POLITO), Germany –at FEMTEC Company, and the UK –at Stemettes Company-, and all of them demonstrated that information and mentoring campaigns significantly increased the enrolment of women in STEM careers.

The POLITO University implemented in 2018 a project to enhance women’s presence in Engineering University and overcome the image of the engineer as a predominantly male figure. This initiative is named “PoliWo – PoliTo for Women” and includes the communication and mentoring campaigns “She hacks Polito” ​and “We are HERe”, as well as the awareness initiative “PoliWo Summer School – SAperI: Spatial Ability for Engineering”​. The results of these initiatives show that 1,307 newly female students registered in engineering in the academic year 2019/20, equal to 26% of the total and with a growth of over 5% over the 2018/2019 academic year.

In Germany, FEMTEC identifies STEM talents already at school and offers career perspectives to female students with the Career-Building Program. The offer is complemented by career advice from professionals and personnel advice from women of well-known technology companies, as well as leading scientific institutions and technical universities.

The actions implemented cover different mentoring activities (challenging career training, inspiring discussions of career-relevant topics, exclusive contacts to exciting employers as well as universities and research institutes, and career counselling). This company also carries out the “Talent Take Off” study orientation programme for them who want to gain insights into STEM subjects and professions and who are interested in exchanging ideas with other STEM talents.​ In addition, they also perform actions of personnel consulting​ and mentoring (the KIM Project and the “Technology Needs Diversity” project).

Femtec’s, in-school career-building programme has now been completed by 650 female STEM talents since 2013. Almost 500 of these Femtec alumni have already successfully entered the profession.

The Stemettes social enterprise, in the United Kingdom, encourages girls aged 5–22 to pursue careers in STEM through public events, workshops and online outreach activities, using a network of women working in the STEM industry. In 2013 the social enterprise, launched the Outbox programme, an intensive residential course, for girls under the age of 22, delivered over 6 weeks during the school summer holiday, to groups of 45 girls at a time.

Industry professionals offered over 90 sessions on business development, fundraising, marketing and design along with 30 downtime sessions. The programme was split into two phases (germination and incubation of business models). In the end, angels and mentors supported -with £30,000 funding- 29 of the girls’ start-ups, most formed during the first three weeks at Outbox. Stemettes has also launched the OtotheB app, a free online platform whose goal is to provide a resource for girls interested in careers in STEM and entrepreneurship.

The roots of Smart Mobility lie in traditionally male-dominated STEM subjects such as computing, engineering, manufacturing, and planning. Working to increase female’s interest in these subjects means working on their incorporation into the transport sector, where women currently form only 22% of workers in Europe (European Commission, 2018). The aim of the research carried out in the TInnGO Project is to highlight this reality in order to influence future transport and gender policies.