Practice Deep Dive - Bringing young ladies beyond STEM Stereotypes  

Deployons nos elles is an educational project developed in France by IMS – Entreprendre pour la cité to bring together schools and the corporate sector in fighting STEM related stereotypes. 

“The business world realizes it needs teachers as talents in STEM are increasingly key for them to be able to compete in the global market.” 

Bouna Kane, Responsible for Education at IMS, talks to inGenious about how the project started. “We brought together business executives, education experts and teachers themselves. Together they have designed a package of activities based on pupils meeting role models, and in particular female role models, to face how many ideas and preconceptions they hold on STEM are quite distant from reality” 

What kind of gender stereotypes in STEM you face?

“One example in particular I like to recall is that of a young student asking an engineer at Alcatel if it is true, how her mother had told her, that if you have a difficult and demanding job such as engineer you cannot have a family. And the role model simply answered: you know I am pregnant and while I am here talking with you I am also thinking of my two kids at home.”  

Engineering and computer science are still strongly associated with male: what can we do about it?

“Keep explaining to pupils that skills are not related to gender but to motivation and commitment. We cannot certainly pretend all girls go into STEM but we want to help teachers to identify early those who have the interest and the potential to help them not to be discouraged by what their parents or friends say.”  

How does Deployons nos elles concretely work?  

“Representative from industry, school counselors and teachers have a preliminary meeting where they discuss learning objectives, how to identify stereotypes and how tocommunicate with pupils about STEM careers. Teachers are supported in collecting all materials and input they need for their work and have two months to prepare themselves and the class for two following meetings between pupils and role models from industry. In the first meeting, usually in class, pupils are lead to identify and learn about stereotypes they take for granted, and then work on them in preparation of the second meeting which usually takes place in the industry premises.

What are the lessons learnt so far?

 “I cannot stress enough how important teachers are for the success of the initiative, they know their pupils well and they can play a pivotal role in early detecting capabilities and barriers that could prevent the full exploitation of this potential. I would recommend they work in partnership with career counselors, and to involve parents as well in this adventure beyond the limits of gender stereotypes.”  

More information 

For more information consult the toolkit, now available in the inGenious catalogue of practices in English, French and Italian. Based on the success of this project in France, IMS is currently collaborating with CSR Europe to expand the project to other European countries under CSR Europe’s Skills for Jobs project ‘Deploy your Talents’. A pilot is already running in Italy at the moment, in collaboration with CSR Europe’s national partner Sodalitas and new business-school networks are being established by the Hellenic Network for CSR (Greece), CSR Turkey and CSR Ukraine