Edwina Dunn, best known for pioneering Tesco Clubcard, is a passionate campaigner for science, technology, engineering and maths, as well as a prominent advocate for female role models. As CEO of data sciences company Starcount, Edwina understands the importance of the digital sector and believes that tapping into the female talent pool is essential to progressing Britain’s prosperity. Through her position as Chair of Your Life, she is campaigning to actively inspire schoolchildren with the exciting opportunities unlocked by studying maths and physics at A Level.
Ford supported Your Life by inviting four school girls involved in the campaign to experience an exclusive Ford experience on National Women in Engineering Day on 23rd June.
What is Your Life?
Your Life is an industry-led and Government-backed campaign, which aims to show the dynamic career opportunities unlocked by studying science and maths, and thereby drive uptake of maths and physics at A-level. Through this, we plan to make a major contribution to the UK economy.
In order to spread the message far and wide, we also utilise our ambassador network of remarkable, influential men and women to bring to life the exciting opportunities on offer. These include:
- Roma Agrawal, structural engineer who helped build The Shard
- Sarah Wood, co-founder and COO of video activation firm Unruly
- Sherry Coutu, entrepreneur and angel investor
- Dr Melane Windridge, plasma physicist
- Belinda Parmar OBE, CEO of campaigning agency Lady Geek
- Ruth Amos, entrepreneur and inventor
- Ben Boyes, Principal Systems Engineer at Astrium
Why I am part of Your Life
I am constantly inspired by the myriad of innovations made by this generation. If we empower young people by giving them the skills to succeed, the future certainly looks bright for our economic recovery.
To ensure this vision is achieved, we need to develop a sustainable pipeline of talent, equipped with the necessary skills for the modern workplace. This means giving all schoolchildren an education in the skills that will be transferable to every career path.
That’s where Your Life comes in.
Our mission is to promote the fundamental importance of maths and science skills to industries as varied as fashion, sport and music. Young people are often excluded from certain careers because of subject choices made at 16 years old. We want to inspire them at a young enough age, informing them on how these technical skills can unlock limitless possibilities in their futures.
We are doing this by driving curiosity around the dynamic STEM career options through though-provoking and inspiring content on our YouTube channel, which directly engages with the teen audience.
Why Your Life was created:
To fill the STEM skills gap
The world is increasingly dominated by technology, with digital capabilities becoming ever more integral to almost every industry. In this analytical and technical world, tech literacy is an essential skill for many roles. The skills learned from studying maths and physics are therefore often essential.
This year the CBI reported that people with STEM skills are becoming harder to recruit, with more than one in four employers reporting difficulties in meeting their need for technicians (28%) and experienced staff with STEM expertise (26%).
We must ensure the workforce has the necessary skills to fill these gaps. Yet, the vast majority of students turn away from STEM subjects after GCSE. They are viewed as difficult and inaccessible, leading to a narrow choice of careers. Your Life seeks to dispel these myths and rewrite the perceptions of where these subjects can take you.
To unlock potential
Too often schoolchildren are encouraged to align themselves solely within the arts or science faculties. This simplistic approach means the benefits of combining creativity and technical skill are lost.
We want to demonstrate that an understanding of science and a refined level of numeracy are utilised not just in the laboratory and classroom, but also on the design table, on the sports field and in creative services. If we can explicitly show how the skills children learn at school will be used in their future lives, we hope they will discover a new appreciation for these previously pigeonholed subjects.
One of the ways in which Your Life is inspiring school children is by hosting a series of “Best School Trip, Ever” events across the country, in partnership with our Industry Sponsors; Ford, Shell, BAE Systems, Carillion, Rio Tinto, J&J, Nestle, VISA and AT Kearney in addition to a wide range of successful entrepreneurial businesses. In this way, students can see what life is like in business and in the creative sciences world.
To tackle gender inequality
The stigma attached to STEM subjects is particularly noticeable among girls. The perception is that these subjects are male-centric.
The Department for Education measured that only 19% of girls who achieved the top grade in physics exams at age 16 go on to study physics up to 18, compared to 49% of boys. Similarly, 11% of girls who achieved the top grade in maths at 16 go on to study mathematics up to 18, compared to 26% of boys.
Statistics such as these help Your Life identify the leak in the talent pipeline, and have shaped our campaigning approach to correct this. We aim to publicise more widely the shining examples of women in these fields, demonstrating the amazing impact female STEM professionals can have on our society.
Formula 100 Competition
Girls were particularly engaged and inspired by the competition, making up 65% of the total entries. All ten of the winners from across the country are young women, selected by a panel of business leaders including myself and my fellow Your Life board members, Martin McCourt and Ros Rivaz.
Prizes were provided by some of the world’s leading businesses who are supporting the Your Life campaign through demonstrating how maths and physics can be applied within their organisations and the innovative career routes these subjects offer.
Ford Experience Day
The 16 to 18-year-old winners were five students from Brentwood County High School. They won invitations to the Ford Dunton Technical Centre Experience Day, which took place on 23rd June to celebrate National Women in Engineering Day. The day featured engineering activities, a behind-the-scene tour of Dunton and the launch of this year’s Ford STEM prize. The winners had the opportunity to take rides around the Dunton test track in Ford heritage vehicles and to participate in a mentoring session with Your Life Ambassador and structural engineer, Roma Agrawal.
The aim of the day was to celebrate and showcase female engineers within product development and manufacturing in Britain. They were able to provide young students with an exclusive insight into these career paths.
Your Life is proud to have supported National Women in Engineering Day. The UK has the lowest proportion of female engineers in Europe – just 9% of engineers are women compared with 26%in Sweden and 20% in Italy. So the aim of the Day is to celebrate the work that women do in engineering, and to showcase the great engineering careers that are available for girls.