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Parents urged to use Black Friday to inspire young girls in science and technology

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This Black Friday (Friday 25 November) parents are being urged to make the most of online deals to buy fun science gifts for girls aged 4 to 14 and encourage their first steps into careers in science, technology and engineering.

Helen Wollaston, chief executive of campaigning organisation WISE, says:  “We have put our top ten Christmas gifts for girls on our website – everything from easy computer coding to wiring a playhouse and growing plants in an eco-greenhouse to running gadgets with solar power.

“At our conference this year, we heard time and again about the poor careers advice in schools – and how we need to capture girls’ imaginations by the age of 10.  After that we are fighting an uphill battle because girls have decided science is not ‘cool’.  These presents will inspire the next Stephanie Jobs, Billie Gates, Lady Amanda Sugar or Jane Dyson.”

Helen Wollaston adds that families have an important part to play in encouraging girls to love science and tech, starting with a ban on anyone saying “I was never any good at maths”.  She says:  “We all have to add up shopping, check our bank accounts, compare mobile phone contracts.  Of course we can do maths, it is not a big issue.  Let’s get rid of the myth that maths is hard.”

She suggests other ideas for parents and grandparents with the girls in their family

  • Look up some of the great female role models in science and discuss them with young girls. Find the stories of Ada Lovelace, Esther Lederberg, Rosalind Franklin (who was played by Nicole Kidman in the play Photograph 51), the women codebreakers at Bletchley Park in the war, WISE rising star award winner Amy Hart – and women who have invented life-changing everyday items such as the fridge
  • Research careers in tech and science – developing the next generation of Marks and Spencer foods, making lipsticks that don’t wear off, getting clean water to children in Africa, new ways to save energy in the home
  • Look at the gender pay gaps in different careers – science and tech jobs have very little pay differences. Discuss why pay gaps arise and how the girls in your family can make sure they get paid well – with careers in science, tech and engineering
  • Get girls in your family curious and asking questions. Where does the electricity to charge their mobiles come from?  Drop mints into diet coke and see what happens (outdoors).

Wollaston added: “The key is to make science fun and relevant.  The UK loses 50,000 talented girls every year from science, technology and engineering jobs. Girls outperform boys in GCSE science subjects, with near equality in numbers taking these exams.  This plummets to just 33 per cent of females after GCSEs and by university, just seven per cent of women take degrees in technology and engineering.  We must inspire women both to help the UK’s skills crisis and ensure women great jobs.”

The top ten Christmas gifts for girls is on the WISE website.  WISE welcome suggestions for toys that have engaged young girls in science and technology and are keen to build on this list – contact them via Twitter @thewisecampaign or on Facebook.

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