Women in steam event

Working with global content agency Clearhead, the University of Northampton took their annual Women into STEAM event online for the first time ever so that they could continue to showcase the amazing career opportunities available to women within the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

The event, which was organised by the University of Northampton (and funded through Aspire Higher) featured an impressive list of speakers including famous TV scientist Dr Emily Grossman and businesses from a wide range of sectors including: Northamptonshire County Council, Kier, The Royal Society for Science, Gradcracker, Anglian Water, Network Rail, Cummins, Barclays, Fabula Arts, The Wildlife Trust and many more. 

Taking place on the 5 November between 9.30am and 3pm, the event was streamed on YouTube and featured a mix of pre-recoded content and live Q&A’s with presenters and businesses. 

Linda Davis-Sinclair is the Schools Engagement Lead/STEM Ambassador at the University of Northampton

“The University has a long history of providing face-to-face events around STEAM for young people and we work collaboratively with Aspire Higher to raise aspirations of children from years 6 upwards. This was the first time we’d ever done an event like this virtually and we knew we had to work extra hard to deliver engaging and varied content that would appeal to such a wide age range. 

Working with Clearhead we decided to pre-record some of the content in advance and introduce live Q&As throughout the day so that different businesses could share their stories and experience and students could have the opportunity to pose their own questions. 

Taking this event online for the first time was daunting, we had to learn to work in different ways and embrace new technology and we didn’t know whether schools would buy into it with the same enthusiasm as a face-to-face event. 

Over 1,000 students registered for the event across 36 schools in Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire and the feedback received was fantastic. Teachers enjoyed the fact that students could access real-life careers information without having to travel a long way to get it and pupils commented on learning about the wide variety of work scientists do and how there are multiple ways of solving a problem.”

Jennifer Glover is a PHD student at Loughborough University and an active member of the Leicestershire STEM Ambassadors, she hosted the event with a fellow student and said: 

“I think visibility and role models for young women is so important. We might be in 2020 but how many people can name a female engineer? It can be hard for young girls to see themselves in careers that are ‘typically’ male so it’s vital we educate early and showcase the amazing careers that exist within the world of STEAM. We need to engage a diverse audience and show them how they can add value to these professions and have the talent and skill that is needed.”

The speakers and partners involved with the event were carefully selected to showcase each aspect of what STEAM represents and celebrating the A (Arts) in STEAM was locally-based creative education company, Fabula Arts. 

Co-director of Fabula Arts James Gillam said: “Organisers from the University of Northampton came by Fabula Arts in the context of a project we were working on with The Wildlife Trust which involved offering creative arts and natural science workshops at the Nene Valley Wetlands at Rushden Lakes inspired by the bestselling book The Lost Words. It was great to be able to talk about the project but also more generally about creativity and its role in science. The arts and creativity are often perceived as separate entities, while in reality skills learnt and practised in the arts, like creativity, teamwork and collaboration are vital for areas such as science as well.”

Following the success of this event, Linda and the team at the University of Northampton and Aspire Higher are already busy planning the next virtual STEAM event – Steam Northants which will take place in the summer of 2021.

Jessica Luck is Head of Marketing at Gradcracker – a UK careers website specifically for STEM students, she said: “I don’t think there’s enough careers advice out there for young people, particularly when it comes to the opportunities available within STEAM. Stereotypes within these careers are still really common unfortunately and so I think it’s really important that these events take place to encourage and inspire not just young women but young people generally.”

“Engineers from the Anglian Water @one Alliance were delighted to support a “I work with water but what is my job” session in collaboration with Anglian Water. Students were invited to ask questions to Anglian Water panellists to try and guess the jobs they do. The session also gave opportunity for our engineers to talk about their roles and their career journey into working in the water industry and Anglian Water. The event was a great success and it’s more important than ever that we continue to connect with students and support them at this challenging time”.- Karen Sansum – STEM Engagement Lead at Anglian Water

Kathy Bird, CEO at Clearhead said: 

It was amazing to work with Linda and the many partners on such a creative and innovative event and we were delighted with the outcome which saw over 1,000 students registering. Using live links and pre-recorded content we were able to create interest and momentum and the Q & A platform gave attendees direct signposting routes and the opportunity to have their voices heard. 

The video of the event is available to view here on the Aspire Higher website and will remain as a permanent online resource for schools to use.