Research commissioned by Microsoft Store shows that 52% of Aussie girls are interested in STEM but don’t identify the career opportunities and see a lack of female role models to spur them on.

The remaining 48% of Australian female secondary students that have not considered a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) career acknowledge that they really do not know enough about what STEM based jobs are or don’t see women in this typically male-dominated domain. Only 18% could name a female STEM role model.

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GadgetGuy attended a Microsoft Coding and Animation Workshop featuring the perfect female role model – Captain Marvel. But it was more than that – it was the chance for about a dozen year 11 and 12 students from Abbotsleigh Private Girls school in Sydney to meet some wonderful female STEM role models.

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The Panel included

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Jessica Erhart, Microsoft said,

“By providing young girls with the opportunity to learn, experience and be inspired by careers in STEM, we can create a real change to the future of the STEM industry. Microsoft Store has created an innovative learning environment, where every young woman from any background can feel included, supported and empowered. These latest workshops aim to inspire young women, both with a strong on-screen role model and the opportunities for them within STEM.” 

This perceived lack of opportunity and access has prompted Microsoft Store to partner with Tap Tap Comics to offer fun, interactive coding and animation workshops for young females, creating a chance to learn more about STEM and develop a passion for technology in a supportive environment.

The Microsoft Coding and Animation workshops include

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When: Monday, April 22nd to Sunday, April 27th at various times throughout each day  

Where: Microsoft Store on Pitt Street Mall, Sydney (188 Pitt St, Sydney)  

Duration: the workshops run for two hours   

Recommended age: 12 -17 years old  

Skill level: beginners, no prior learning needed   

Workshop types:   

  • Animation Workshop: In this workshop, the animation team behind Marvel Create Your Own will provide a hands-on introduction to Autodesk Maya, the industry-leading software package used for professional computer animation and visual effects across film, television and gaming. 
  • Coding Workshop: Microsoft Visual Studio and Unity3D are the number one cross-platform game development environments in the world, used to create apps for any device. In this workshop, the coders behind Marvel Create Your Own will show you how to create a horizontal scrolling game featuring iconic Marvel characters, such as Captain Marvel. Using Visual Studio and Unity 3D software, this workshop offers a great introduction to those interested in more advanced coding. 

STEM – most fall into it

The Australian Government March 2016 report on Australia’s STEM Workforce was in some ways a driver of Microsoft’s interest in promoting STEM to students via its training facilities in the Microsoft Store in Sydney.

Sarah Harper, 2D Animation art director, said she really did not even think of STEM when choosing her career – she just loved drawing. But in the end, animation is all about STEM. There are so many jobs underpinned by STEM – you just need to open your eyes to the possibilities.

Sarah used the term ‘Ambient Barrier’ when referring to the fact that only 16% of the STEM workforce is female.

While it was a reference to a ‘glass ceiling’ – you’re a girl, you don’t do STEM, it was more about encouraging girls to consider STEM by providing strong role models. It takes time to change.

Jade, the ever-effusive Physics Girl on YouTube, was totally positive. You can do it! Forget the gender stuff. She acknowledged that the single most important thing was an encouraging environment at school, Uni or VET and later at work.

Sarah called it the need to create a STEM tribe with strong female role models. That is not going to happen if the main person mentioned in the Microsoft research was Madam Curie (1867-1934 and discovered Polonium and Radium).

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GadgetGuy’s take: No gender card, nor should there be

First, congratulations to Microsoft Store for doing its bit to help STEM education. STEM is not about learning hard subjects but about developing a passion for how they apply to everyday things to get a better outcome. Inquiry-based learning!