The WaTT in STEaM project: exploring successful strategies to recruit more female teachers in STEM

On October 28th and 29th the final meeting of the Erasmus+ KA2 WaTT in STEaM – Women as Teachers Trainers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics has been held in Bree (Flanders, Belgium), hosted by TISM – Dynamisch & Innovatief, a VET school with about 700 students and 110 staff members.

The WaTT in STEaM project, coordinated by MBO Raad, is about trying to find successful strategies to recruit and select high quality female teachers in STEM areas in order to solve the shortage of female teachers in STEM areas. The project started from the assumption that technology dominates much of our daily life and our professions, and this applies not only to traditional technical sectors, but also to other sectors, like Health and Care, Business and Creative Industry. However, in order to supply the necessary high number of well qualified technicians, we need enough high qualified STEM teachers. Women, in particular, represent a large potential that is heavily underrepresented.

In order to face this challenge, starting from the end of 2018 the partnership organised international meetings in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Iceland, and Finland (this one online because of COVID-19 pandemic) to share good practices and learn from each other, with the aim to share innovative approaches and practices for promoting the careers of women in teaching scientific and technical disciplines. This, having in mind that there are no solutions which works in all contexts but considering that there are European countries that perform better than others which reference to the involvement of women in STEM disciplines and careers.

The final meeting was even more important because, after more than a year and a half, at the end of almost 3 years of activity, the partners were able to meet again and had the possibly to listened to very interesting presentations from representatives of universities, companies and networks, as Francoise Chombar (Melexis, STEM platform), Prof Veerle Draulans (KUL, gender expert) and Peggy Van Casteren (Head of Community Impact J&J Benelux). Then, three female STEM teachers spoke passionately about how they chose this job and, Finally, there was the testimony of three girl students from TIMS school about their choice to fully opt for a STEM education.

The common work during the meeting allowed the partners to define specific Recommendations which will be disseminated to VET schools and organisations, as well as to policy makers: they are meant to be a tool for analysis, reflection and a stimulus for action to counter gender stereotypes, and promote female participation in STEM disciplines, through teachers’ training, raising awareness actions addressing parents and the use of role models.

The experience of WaTT in STEaM showed us, in FORMA.Azione, that our commitment and competences on gender equality at European level, developed within the GET UP project, and continuing in this years also with the SET THE TONE and the BEYOND initiatives, have to be put at disposal of other European organisation and to further strengthened. Indeed, it’s necessary to continuously increase the awareness of education and training professionals, of parents, and stakeholders, and of key actors in the world of work about how unconscious bias and gender stereotypes influence crucial decisions on education, on career paths, on working arrangements, and it’s also very important to reinforce their capacity to use strategies and tools to remove them.

 

Picture: Photo of the partners during the meeting in Reykjavík (Iceland) on February 2020.