Broadcaster and CEO at TeenTech
I was very honoured and delighted to receive the Outreach and Diversity Award where in your words I was ‘ singled out as not only exceptional but as a force in working towards diversity and a better gender balance in STEM industries’. I’ve promoted diversity since first joining Tomorrow’s World in 1982 – and done my very best to showcase strategies which make a difference both in terms of gender balance and social, ethnic and disability. I co-founded TeenTech in 2008 to reach out to young people as I had become increasingly aware of the way science and technology was being taught often seemed remote from real world applications . From the outset, our programmes were powerful in reaching those who most needed to understand not only the opportunities in science, technology and engineering but their own potential for really enjoying their roles. I didn’t want to preach to the converted and TeenTech was set up as a way to help those with no prior serious interest in science, tech or engineering to understand just how many opportunities there were in those sectors.
Since receiving the Award TeenTech has grown from a reach of 3000 students per year to 15,000 face to face and over 75,000 reached through resources, videos and our website. Our programmes now reach young people from the age of 8-19 and we provide workshops in schools, innovation days on company sites, large scale festivals and year-round award programmes for Primary (TeenTech City of Tomorrow) and Secondary (TeenTech Awards)
The focus is always on providing inspiration , skills workshops and a network to schools where it is most needed. Our festivals are attended by over 50% girls and our Award programmes enjoy over 60% female participation. In 2016 I was named the most influential woman in UKIT and also awarded Digital Leader of the Year for this work. I’ve also received nine honorary degrees and in 2017 was given an OBE. However I am most proud of the students themselves and my brilliant, highly committed team at TeenTech who work so hard to help whole school communities better understand the fast changing world of science, tech and engineering.
We have a strong reputation for building effective, long lasting relationships between schools and local, national and global organisations, especially for students whose social or ethnic backgrounds may mean they lack a network of contacts or informed parental support. We currently use the Social Mobility Index produced by the Social Mobility Commission to identify local authority districts where support is most needed.
We work collaboratively across the UK with a network of industry partners focusing on disadvantaged communities and promoting our core values of inclusivity and diversity.
People often remark upon the diversity of our participants which often bucks the trend – for instance, our TeenTech Awards programme has been consistently successful in encouraging diverse participation. In 2018/9 270 schools participated in the TeenTech awards programme. 1098 girls and 633 boys submitted work to the TeenTech Awards programme.
873 students were from schools in the top 30% most disadvantaged areas according to the Indices of Deprivation 2019 data. Of these, 613 were from the top 20% most disadvantaged areas and 90 from the top 10% most disadvantaged areas.
We noticed a clear relationship between areas where we have TeenTech large scale events and focused Innovation Days in place to inspire and give schools confidence to participate.
On June 24that The IET the 73 teams and individuals reaching the final comprised 108 girls and 65 boys. Of these, 13 teams were from schools situated in top 30% most disadvantaged areas.
There were 28 girls and 16 boys in the 23 winning teams and 7 of the winning teams were from schools situated in the top 30% most disadvantaged areas. The Teacher of the Year was from a school in top 20% most deprived area.
We’ve now run programmes long enough to be able to see impact over time. Schools are crediting TeenTech with impacting the number of students choosing STEM subjects – for example Notre Dame in Greenock said that over 5 years of engagement with us they’d seen an increase of 300% and had subsequently set up an Engineering Department in the school due to demand. Another reported increase of Physics GCSE uptake from 43% to 87.5 over 3 years.
We also share our learning at conferences and with government so they better understand the tripwires – which are not always obvious. One of the most gratifying developments has been the way girls who have benefited from our programmes have been so keen to act as TeenTech Young Ambassadors to inspire not only other Primary and Secondary students to follow in their footsteps but to inspire companies, universities and government to better engage.. One of our TeenTech Young Ambassadors was awarded a British Empire Medal for her work in 2019.
I was incredibly proud to receive the award and it certainly give me confidence to continue to develop our programmes. One of the reasons was that our approach had always been to run mixed gender events as we believed everyone needs to be part of the change-making process. I always remember reading one account from a boy who said he’d learned two things from TeenTech – firstly the importance of teamwork and secondly that girls ‘were really good at tech’. Being given the award for diversity was a very powerful endorsement for our approach and I remain incredibly grateful for the nomination and the award.« Back to the WISE 20 Page