On #INWED22: Breaking the cycle – Female STEM students look forward to a future in leadership

23 June 2022


For the first time in the history of The Big Bang Competition, 2 young women have been named UK Young Scientist & Engineer of the Year. Connie Gray & Avye Couloute, both aged 14 have won the top prizes at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Competition.

Today marks the 9th Year of International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), and a national survey shows an increase of over 50% among females interested in STEM subjects. Science and mathematics were voted favourite subjects by girls aged 11 to 16 years old, with two thirds (61%) showing a keen interest in a STEM career.

The survey also finds 37% of 11 to 16 year olds say they watch YouTube videos to learn about their future dream jobs, compared to those who read books (30%) or attend after-school classes or clubs (22%). There are plenty of ways for them to discover more in the real world, as well as on their laptops.

STEM inspiration
Dr Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK
, organisers of The Big Bang Fair, which aims to inspire young people to learn more about the world of STEM, says parents should embrace the new ways of learning while seeking out in real life experiences.  

She said: “It’s really encouraging that young people are embracing STEM at an early age. We need more young people from all backgrounds to understand the role that STEM careers play and for more of them to go on to work in science, engineering and technology. Social media is a great tool and has been particularly useful during the pandemic to help young people gain an understanding of STEM. The Big Bang Fair this year comprises a live event at the NEC and a digital option, both designed to provide young people with the chance to experience the amazing opportunities a career in STEM can offer and learn more from people already working in science, engineering and tech.”  

With 11 to 16 year olds being more inspired by people like Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert and Sir David Attenborough over well-known social media 'influencers' like Molly-Mae Hague, it’s no wonder children are looking into the world of STEM for a career, with 2 in 5 (43%) 11 to16 year olds saying a career in STEM allows them to make a positive change in the world. This complements previous research undertaken by EngineeringUK, which demonstrates that young people who attend a careers event with an employer, either online or in person (for example, a tour of a workplace or a careers fair) are around twice as likely to know about what engineers and scientists can do in their jobs and also almost three times as likely to be interested in a career in engineering.   

Hidden STEM influence on social media
Dr Leevers
adds: “The opportunities within STEM are endless, with some better known than others. In our survey less than a quarter of young people realised that developing TikTok is an example of a career that needs STEM skills. It’s an example most young people are familiar with and being able to show the huge variety of possibilities will hopefully encourage more young people to study and eventually work in STEM.”  

Jessica Leigh Jones, the first female to win The Big Bang Fair’s UK Young Engineer of the Year Award, commented: “Social media is proving a fantastic resource for young people to discover what the world of STEM has to offer. There are so many talented creators producing engaging content, opening STEM to a whole new audience.

Jessica added: “I won the Young Engineer of the Year Award at The Big Bang Fair 10 years ago, it’s fantastic to see the quality of entries from females this year for The Big Bang Competition and even more so that two girls took the top prize this year. What better way to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day.

Career opportunities
When it come to considering careers, those surveyed, felt studying STEM subjects laid a strong foundation in helping to make a difference and saving the planet, with 42% of children appreciating that a career in Climate Engineering would require a basis in STEM.  

The Big Bang Fair is on at The NEC in Birmingham from Wednesday 22 to Friday 24 June.   

The Big Bang Fair is aimed at 11- to 14-year-olds and the 3-day event (Wednesday 22 June to Friday 24 June) is the largest celebration of STEM in the UK. The free to attend event will feature scores of quality hands-on activities to inspire young people to discover and explore what a career in STEM can offer. Families, home educators and school groups have the chance to visit at The Big Bang Fair Unlocked, taking place on Thursday 23 June from 4pm to 8pm. There will be an interactive on-demand element too with 6 fascinating STEM panels streamed live as part of this year’s Big Bang Digital where young people can hear from real scientists and engineers shining a spotlight on sustainability, health and wellness and technology, and more.  

Visit the Big Bang website for more information about The Big Bang Competition and The Big Bang Fair.

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