The key to inspiring girls into STEM? It’s a question of chemistry by Jo Cruse, Communications Stemette, ----- There is nothing quite like watching a chemical reaction take place. The careful combining of elements, and the technicolour reaction which can result. It’s like witnessing magic first-hand. The same principles apply when it comes to inspiring girls into STEM. Our role, as teachers, parents, women in STEM and frontline organisations, is to enable girls to be exposed to the vast possibilities STEM – thereby hopefully igniting a lifelong interest in them. Our role is to encourage as many interactions as possible between young girls and a world they may previously not have thought to explore. And then to stand back, and see if a reaction occurs. More often than not, it does, and the result is far more impressive than any of us could have imagined. Girls are eager to explore STEM If the steadily increasing number of girls attending Stemettes’ events is any indication, there is a growing appetite for opportunities which allow girls to explore STEM. Thus far, we have reached 8000 girls since we were established in 2013, and we will exceed the 10 000 mark this year. Established in 2013, Stemettes inspires girls into careers in STEM through hackathons, panel events, a STEM start-up incubator called Outbox Incubator, and the Student to Stemette programme developed in partnership with Deutsche Bank. In February, we also launched our flagship app, OtotheB, a global online platform for girls interested in STEM and entrepreneurship. Stemettes was started in response to the persistent underrepresentation of women in STEM – as illustrated by a 2015 WISE report, which found that only 14.4% of the UK's STEM workforce is female. STEM is the future Initiatives such as British Science Week are vital in heightening the awareness of girls, parents, teachers and industry to the underrepresentation of women in STEM - and girls’ hunger for the chance to investigate a career in this field. In particular, one message needs to be conveyed – STEM is everything, and is everywhere. It goes far beyond experiments in the science lab, or solving a maths equation. STEM is the future – it permeates every industry. It is creative and exciting, and offers a wealth of opportunities for young women. Speaking at Stemettes’ 3rd birthday party and launch of our new app, OtotheB, student Stemette Yasmine Dankwah aged 16, put it succinctly when she said: “Technology isn’t a stand-alone term; it comes in combinations. For example, technology and business or technology and medicine, and even creative writing and film. I now realise that I do still want to be a part of a growing tech industry but through words, graphics and virtual environments thanks to Stemettes!” Girls themselves are powerful advocates for change A core focus of Stemettes’ work is enabling girls to meet both inspiring women in STEM, and other girls who share a passion for all things STEM. Alumni from our STEM start-up incubator, Outbox Incubator, have become a powerful voice in this regard. Science was a central theme in a number of the businesses which took part in Outbox Incubator. For example, Free Feet, co-founded by Outbox alumnus Edel Browne, uses laser assistive technology to tackle gait freezing in people with Parkinson’s Disease and Hannah Phillips founded 4Wardz, an app for young people with chronic/life-limiting illnesses. Outbox alumni are present at all our main events, and are powerful advocates for a more gender balanced STEM sector. Girls are able to relate to their stories often in a more meaningful way than if they were spoken by an adult. These young women act as powerful catalysts for change in other girls’ lives. British Science Week presents an ideal opportunity to amplify the voices of young women such as this. Their message is as simple as is powerful – if we can do it, so can you. It may not just spark a reaction but, ultimately, a revolution. For more information about Stemettes, visit our website, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Stemettes’ free app OtotheB, is available for download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play.