November 19, 2014 Nick Preston

Girls as Engineers!

Girls as Engineers is a national campaign initiated by the Perspektywy Education Foundation and the Conference of Rectors of Polish Technical Universities.  The aim is to inspire girls to take up engineering in HE.  Over the past 7 years the percentage of women in technical universities has increased by 6.1%.  The campaign relies on volunteers who organise activities in technical universities just for girls.  There is also a media campaign and training for staff.

Girls as Engineers is a national campaign initiated by the Perspektywy Education Foundation and the Conference of Rectors of Polish Technical Universities. The aim is to inspire girls to take up engineering in HE. Over the past 7 years the percentage of women in technical universities has increased by 6.1%. The campaign relies on volunteers who organise activities in technical universities just for girls. There is also a media campaign and training for staff.

Objectives of the Intervention

The campaign’s target is to get through to every young girl in the country who is about to choose their studies programme. For now most of the women are choosing humanities, because they think that science is for men.

The campaign’s idea is broader – it is about women’s participation as such and widening access to the HE.

The main campaign’s objectives embrace:

  • Ending stereotypes that science is only for men and getting rid of the image of so called masculine and feminine majors.
  • Abolition of the division that humanities are for girls whereas sciences are for boys.
  • Getting women involved in development of science, creation of new technology, economic strategies.
  • Breaking the glass ceiling.
  • Empowering women in the long-term perspective.
  • Increasing women’s participation.

Each year 10 000 girls from high school are participating on the “National Open Day For Girls Only” which is organized in about 20 polish technical universities.

Polish Campaign “Girls as engineers!” and organized within - Polish “National Open Day For Girls Only” have a unique formula, inspiration for the organizers of Polish “National Open Day For Girls Only” was the world Girls’ Day which is organized each year on April in many European countries (especially: German edition).

Origins and rationale of this initiative

The idea has been initiated on the basis of the German event called “The Girls’ Day”. In 2007 together with the German coordinator the initiator of Polish campaign (Bianka Siwińska) first event was organised, also under the name “The Girls’ Day”. This has become the part of the bigger project which is Girls as Engineers. The idea of the project served multiple purposes. Firstly the goal was to convince more women that technical HE is also for them and not as it is commonly believed more suitable for men (changing the mind set within the society). Secondly, to convince the institutions that poor involvement of women constitutes a problem of accessibility and equality in HE system. Also a number of secondary schools got involved in the project and its events.

Target groups intended as beneficiaries of this initiative

The initiative has several target groups, because of the scope of action, which covers the whole country (Poland). Targets group include: secondary school students, students, staff, HEI’s authorities, local communities. Especially young women – prospective students are targeted, but also potential female engineers, M. Sc., professors in engineering.

Political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative

The initiative has support from the government - the campaign’s Honorary Committee includes: Minister of Science and Higher Education, Minister of National Education, , Chairman of the Conference of Rectors of Technical Universities; Minister of Administration and Digitization; Minister of Labour and Social Policy; Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment; Head of the Polish Patent Office and the Ombudsman.

It’s been well implemented on local, regional and national levels.

It has a strong support from the HEIs, student unions and some support from the private sector.

The low birth rate is now influencing the project. Unfortunately the figures in general are dropping, but still one can say that the actions meet the targets are the increasing tendency seen in percentage data is promising. Each year, organizers execute the Report “Women in the technical universities” showing an increase in the number of students of technical universities in Poland. Since 2007 the number of women in technical universities increased by 6.1%. This is a very good result in a situation when the general number of students in Poland is decreasing.

Mission in attached in the first section of the document as a link to the website.

The campaign can still stir up a debate within the society whether women’s participation in technical universities is an issue, but generally it helps a lot of young women actually decide to go for technical education on higher level. As their hesitation is an issue and they often give up their future carrier in that field, because they do not feel good enough, they think that this is a men thing, etc. All the basic goals that the campaign outlines are getting through to the feminine prospective students’ population – this together with the figures proves that the initiative is successful.

Overall Programme design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals

The campaign "Girls as engineers!" are:

  • The nationwide media campaign consisting of: a nationwide press conference (organized for 3-4 weeks before the “Open Day For Girls Only”), regional conferences (organized in cities which participate in The Campaign), speeches in media (women scientists-role models, student , politicians, professors), publications in media and social media campaigns.
  • The culmination of the "Girls as engineers!" Campaign is the “Open Day For Girls Only” which is organized by a many of Polish technical universities. On this day technical universities are organizing many activities addressed specially for girls - students of secondary schools. Technical universities are opening their laboratories, organizing workshops, lectures, presentations, meetings with women who are related to technical studies and sciences.
  • The additional side events are: stands to promote the campaign organized during Poland International Education Fair “Perspektywy”; trainings for technical university staff - “Open Day For Girls Only”; sports event “Bieg w kasku” (www.biegwkasku.pl).

The main final outputs of the project:

  • increase number of women in technical universities by 7%
  • draw public attention to the issue of women in technical sciences
  • the involvement of politicians and representatives of commercial companies to the issue of women in technical sciences.

Describe if the project ensured its sustainability

The annual actions (e.g. The Girls’ Day), reporting, diverse funding and the need of improving the participation of women in technical universities enabled the sustainability of the project.

"Open Day For Girls Only" is very important part of polish technical universities and high schools annual schedule since 2007.

Polish project was a beginning of cooperation with Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic in the same field.

Resources used in the initiative

The budget of the project consists mainly of Polish technical universities funds. In addition, the organizers are trying to provide financial support from industry and charity institution (Polish and global). 20% of financial contribution (including staff costs) came from Perspektywy Education Foundation.

Volunteers are very important and necessary support of Campaign. 500 volunteers are involved in organizing the Open Day and other events in the campaign. Volunteers are mostly students of technical universities, as well as university staff and specialists in various fields – e.g. graphic designers, journalists. Most of the time of volunteers is used one week before and during the Open Day.

Did the intervention reach its objectives?

Over the past seven year the percentage of women in technical universities has increased by 6.1 percentage points (from 30.7% to 36,8%).

The Campaign still tries to influence the very technical programmes, where women’s involvement is still relatively poor (up to 19%).

There is also a low percentage of the academically involved women in technical sciences (PHD, professors).

The project was evaluated by investigating the technical universities population every year and comparing the results – quantitative indicators.

Each year after the Open Day organizers make evaluation of the event. Evaluation takes the form of the questionnaire, which is filled in by the participants of the event – girls form high schools.

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