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STEM Sheroes: Paving the Way for Girls in Science

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February 22nd, 2024

Stem Sheroes Panama

Science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girl’s game. It’s everyone’s game. It’s about where we are and where we’re going.

— Nichelle Nichols, Actress and Former NASA Ambassador

A lot has been done in the past decade to create space for girls to enter the world of STEM. There are now more women in STEM careers and more girls in STEM programs than ever before. The road, however, is still long. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2023, women make up only 29.2% of the STEM workforce. Moreover, in many places, the attitude that girls do not like sciences persists, and girls remain significantly under-represented in STEM subjects, especially as they grow older. The effect of these issues is particularly stark in low income areas, where students may not be exposed to the thrills and opportunities that the world of science has to offer.  

In collaboration with the Flying Labs, we raise STEM awareness among the youth and support them to pursue STEM education and careers through our STEM/Youth sector program. Since 2020, we have facilitated and co-organized more than 48 youth trainings and projects with 31 Flying Labs as well as implemented 145 locally-led youth projects empowering thousands of local women and girls to pursue STEM careers and entrepreneurship. Learn more why drones allow to get hands-on learning for STEM beyond the classrooms.

During this training, I saw how big a transformation drone technology is to bring to our communities and to me personally as a young student. I can see how a greater future can bring in the days to come. We can become ambassadors of innovation and agents of change in our own communities, demonstrating the power of youth in driving positive transformation through technology.

— Gichigo Esther. M Wacera, 23-year-old female student trained by Kenya Flying Labs

Discover some of our past STEM programs in the short video below, illustrating proof of the continuing need for and impact of these programs.

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Building on the invaluable experiences made together with Flying Labs over the past 5+ years for impactful and lasting STEM initiatives, we asked ourselves the following questions: How can we expand our existing STEM activities to a wider age group audience, bundling them together to not only make them aspirational and sustainable but also drastically scale their local impact? And how can we scale them across the Flying Labs Network, all the while respecting existing local STEM activities, ecosystems, and needs?

Stem Sheroes Graphic

Our answer is the introduction of a new program called “STEM Sheroes”.  This program proposes both a vision and a clear path for girls and women to become local technology experts, leaders and entrepreneurs who use emerging technologies to solve problems in their communities. It incorporates all the learnings we and Flying Labs have made, and fully builds on existing local programs. The following key elements differentiate STEM Sheroes from existing STEM initiatives:

  • It addresses a wide age group audience with a tailored approach, from elementary school to adulthood, offering targeted, hands-on learning experiences for each age group.  For example, a children’s book featuring a local story and local STEM Sheroes for the youngest age group, STEM programs and youth-led STEM projects for the youth audience, and professional drone and data training as well as STEM entrepreneurship programs for young adults. 
  • It interlinks these learning experiences to ensure a holistic, aspirational, and comprehensive learning journey for children, youth and young adults, with a strong focus on the participation of girls and women (hence “Sheroes”). 
  • By sharing practical lived experiences and passion, female change makers of the Flying Labs will serve as the program implementers and mentors, offering meaningful support to the girls and women involved in the program. Youth and young adults, including those participating in the program, can become trainers of the program themselves, building up their leadership and skills by supporting others in the same journey.
  • It takes a long-term focus and commits to co-creating a local STEM ecosystem as well as collaborating with a wide array of local stakeholders.

We plan to introduce the program starting in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Senegal, and Panama. This is a strategic move to test and refine the program's framework, with the ultimate goal of expanding globally to all 40+ countries within the Flying Labs Network. Discover the impact story of a participant of Zimbabwe Flying Labs' latest STEM program.

On International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2024, the fundamental call is this: women need science, and science needs women. Establishing STEM Sheroes is our way of contributing to the collective work of challenging the status quo in STEM education and making more room for girls to step into the tech and innovation space. Our hope is that its impact will be felt globally as girls take their place at the forefront of technological advancements and social change. We are setting the stage for a more inclusive future in STEM, one Shero at a time.

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