5 August 2022

High tea helping close the gap for STEM women

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Mater Dei Catholic College Year 10 students Olivia Lewis Elysia Smith, Cameron Measday

Mater Dei Catholic College Year 10 students Olivia Lewis, Elysia Smith and Cameron Measday work in a group to complete STEM-related challenges. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

More than 120 high school girls from Wagga have had a practical introduction to STEM education and careers.

Mater Dei Catholic College students in Years 9 and 10 attended a Girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) high tea in a collaboration between Charles Sturt University (CSU) and the state Department of Education.

The high tea, held at Mater Dei, aimed at encouraging future STEM pathways for Stage 5 high school girls, to develop a Riverina-based program.

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The girls attended a Meet the Panel discussion with a female panel expert, worked in groups of five to complete STEM-related challenges, and consulted a mentor to devise solutions.

CSU School of Humanities and Social Sciences project coordinator and project manager of Red Meat Innovation Myf Clark said the high tea event held great significance as it was designed to open young women’s eyes and minds to opportunities offered in STEM fields.

“It’s opening the girls’ ideas to different career opportunities and diversifications of those careers,” Ms Clark said.

Clarice Machiridza hopes to pursue a career in forensic science. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

“The biggest key message I’ve told the students is to follow their passions and do things they are good at but also that challenge them.”

Year 10 student Chelsea Purcell, who is hoping to pursue a future in civil engineering, said the event was important as many young girls were not given the same opportunity around Australia.

“The future and 75 per cent of the careers are going to be in STEM,” Chelsea said.

Year 10 students Emily Pike and Chelsea Purcell. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

“We got to hear different people talk about their careers and the path they have been on.

“It has definitely opened the eyes and realise it doesn’t matter what you choose first because there are plenty of opportunities.”

Chelsea’s aspirations include doing a trade and owning her own business.

“Maths is one of my best subjects and I like hands-on activities in metal.”

Candice Masling, Jacinta Thomas, Tempey Nicholson and Isabelle Bruckner. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Another student, Clarice Machiridza, said the STEM event was empowering for girls.

“While most of the greatest scientists are men, STEM gives girls a chance to explore their options in this evolving and changing world,” she said.

Clarice said science was her favourite subject and her goal was to pursue forensic science after finishing school.

“I want to do something that’s helping people and helping our law enforcement in the form of detective work,” she said.

Peyton Freeman, Elisa Cook and Brianna Creasy. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

“I thought about forensic science and according to some of the teachers, I have good analytical skills.”

Clarice also plans to study laboratory skills at TAFE this year and hopes to transfer the credits when she enters university.

CSU pro vice-chancellor (research and innovation) Professor Michael Friend said a career in the STEM fields was exciting, rewarding and innovative.

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“Charles Sturt University is committed to furthering the education of students, both enrolled at the university and prospective students,” Professor Friend said.

“It is a great opportunity to have our experts on display, demonstrating the capabilities of the university in educating in a STEM career and showing students the potential career and research pathways ahead of them.

“Events like these are a great way to encourage more females into STEM education and career pathways.”

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