Getting Girls into STEM
At RB, we have a very diverse R&D organisation:
- over 1,200 people, in 28 countries across 35 locations worldwide.
- At manager level and below we are proud to have a 50/50 split between men and women.
RB are a worldwide consumer health organisation, responsible for some of the world’s biggest brands, including Nurofen, Air Wick, Clearasil and Scholl. From R&D, manufacturing, to supply and marketing – STEM professionals are at the core of our business success and we want more!
What we did.
One of RB’s largest R&D centres is based in Hull. We have teams working closely with local schools and communities to drive an interest in STEM among young people. We know from the research out there that interest in science at primary school age is relatively equal between boys and girls, but this dips off at secondary school.
- At year 7 female interest in science is high - by year 9 this drops and less than one in 20 girls consider a career in STEM compared to one in five boys.
- Working closely with Newland School for Girls we host careers talks for the students. Our young female graduates visit the school to provide insights into their roles and to show girls that our scientists are young women just like them.
- We often find that many of the students are shocked to learn the young women they are talking to are all scientists working in science-led careers.
“Today, there’s a distinct lack of understanding and advice for young girls thinking of pursuing careers in STEM and the need for positive messaging from parents, teachers and businesses and strong female role models is paramount. Our collaboration with the girls in Newlands school in Hull has shown that an early, positive exposure to our young female STEM graduates is a great way to inspire participation in STEM subjects. For companies like RB, ensuring a strong pipeline of creative and talented female STEM graduates is common sense as it simply safeguards our pipeline of future innovations.” - Sharon James – SVP Research & Development
What we learned.
To ensure we can have a real impact with Newland School students we conducted a survey with girls across years 7, 9 and 11 to help us better understand how they feel about science and to give us some insights to shape our programme for 2017.
- Overall 45% of students stated they disliked science or maths as a subject.
- Reasons included:
- 69% find it boring
- 60% find them difficult
- 22% don’t think it will be useful to the career they want.
Whilst there are lots of reasons often citied, there are 4 key themes that we seem to have come across from the research:
- lack of confidence
- gender stereotypes and conformity
- flaws in the way science is taught and lack of career guidance.
So what will make science more interesting to study?
What we would do differently as a result.
We are using our findings from above to build a concrete programme for 2017. We want to challenge the myths:
- eliminate bias in school (not just at work)
- challenge subconscious stereotypes
- provide positive female role models and encourage and empower girls.
Making an investment in STEM education will help to create a broader, more diverse workforce – something that is much needed, especially for RB.
- Women are responsible for up to 85% of all brand purchases and this increases to 93% when it comes to the purchase of over-the-counter medicines like Nurofen or Gaviscon, which are some of our biggest health brands.
- We think it’s important that women play a significant role in making and developing the products that women buy.
- We need to interest the girls of today so they can help us create the innovations of the future that they will go on to buy. After all, if half of the population isn’t contributing to the best ideas, they’re not, in fact, the best ideas!
Please outline anything you might not do again with reasons why, and add anything else you learnt as a result of these changes.
To find out more about RB and our careers, please go to www.rb.com.