Louise Maule is project lead at Maths4Girls, an organisation that allows educators to invite female (and male) role models who work within maths-based sectors such as finance, computing and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) into the classroom to inspire and encourage students to take maths beyond GCSE. They want to inspire young people to excel at maths, to raise awareness of the fantastic careers maths can offer, and debunk the myth that maths isn’t for girls. In partnership with global association for finance professionals, 100 Women In Finance, Maths4Girls aims to inspire and encourage girls, aged 11-14, to take maths beyond GCSE and even the gender playing field at A-levels and university.
“Boys and girls are equally good at maths. However, this is not reflected in the numbers of boys and girls studying maths.”
The power of communication
I always wanted to be a teacher. Or an archaeologist, or writer. I loved biology and geography at school so studied a zoology degree then worked in nature conservation. A lot of this involved communicating complex theories and ideas to a range of audiences, and empowering people to ‘get on board’ with the cause. From being terrified of speaking in public, with practise I realised how rewarding it could be, and how important in helping to solve an issue.
Young people – the next generation of innovators, decision-makers and problem solvers
I then trained as a teacher – working with an audience of young people every day, and supporting the next generation of innovators, decision-makers and problem solvers, was the path for me. I then progressed to supporting teachers across a range of primary and secondary schools, and led a regional programme of CPD for educators.
The issue of lower numbers of girls studying STEM subject then progressing to a career, plus a lack of knowledge of the amazing opportunities the STEM sector can offer, was something I worked a lot on. Then I joined Maths4Girls in November 2020.
My role at Maths4Girls
No day is the same at Maths4Girls, which I love! Some days I’ll be creating a programme of events, and supporting our volunteer speakers with their sessions. Others, I’ll be speaking to the educator community to demonstrate how easy it is to use Maths4Girls and why it is needed.
Our steering committee is a body of absolute expertise and experience of best practice when it comes to maths, so I also spend time keeping up to date with current knowledge on this. And of course, there is the data and reporting side; vital to ensure we are having an impact and continue to improve.
A new way of interacting
COVID-19 meant we had to rapidly transform our offer at Maths4Girls. We quickly updated the website to allow educators to book online events rather than in-person, and also broadcast live interviews throughout the first lockdown. All the while, educators were getting to grips with a new way of teaching and interacting with their pupils, and becoming more familiar with remote teaching and online sessions. By December, we had our first bookings for online events coming through from schools.
In January schools went back to remote learning. We were determined to support educators and pupils through this uncertain time of missed schooling, lost curriculum time, and postponed career events. The team developed a series of online events that schools could book on to, as well as or instead of arranging their own, and these are proving to be really popular. At our recent Mother Earth Day we welcomed almost 4000 young people throughout the day.
A benefit of being online is that young people can hear from our speakers wherever they are – geography is not a barrier. It is easy for our speakers to fit in a Maths4Girls session without the need for travel.
Addressing the gender imbalance in mathematics
Boys and girls are equally good at maths. However, this is not reflected in the numbers of boys and girls studying maths. The gender imbalance is even more pronounced in physics, and computing. Girls can be deterred from STEM subjects, STEM careers and leadership from a very young age, through characters they watch on TV, toys they are given, to messages they see around them on clothing (compare the words on boys clothes and girls clothes. They are often very different – unnecessarily so).
We know that girls are less confident in maths than boys, plus a lack of career awareness and role models means they may be less engaged, able to persevere or opt to leave it as a subject as soon as they can. Unfortunately, all of this can lead to girls thinking that they ‘can’t do’ maths or that everyone else is finding it easy except for them. Maths4Girls showcases brilliant women who use maths every day in their job.
By sharing their career journey and giving insight into the amazing roles out there, we help to challenge unconscious gender bias, stereotypes about certain jobs, and reassure young people that resilience, perseverance and support is needed by everyone. We show that maths combines with many subjects – we’ve got programmers, designers, innovators, engineers, cybersecurity experts and environmental experts, all showing that combining maths and STEM skills with what you enjoy and care about, can lead to a fantastic career.
“But when will I ever need this..?”
We know that maths can change the world, and that young people care passionately about this, so we highlight how different sectors of maths-based business and industry can contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This allows pupils to understand how the maths they are learning in the classroom has a real-world application. Maths4Girls is an excellent way to answer the often-heard pupil question: “But when will I ever need this..?” By sharing these career insights we support young people, and their teachers, to see the wide opportunities that maths can offer.
Getting on board with maths
Moving forward, we’re trialling a series of 4pm Maths4Girls panel events. These will empower aunties, mothers, grandparents to support the young girl in their life by booking them a seat and finding out together where maths could take them. We know it can be challenging to support a young person who is preparing for jobs of the future – which may not exist yet!
I’m looking forward to seeing Maths4Girls reach more and more schools, and impacting even more young people. And we’ve just taken a booking for an in-person Maths4Girls event – not online! I’m really looking forward to that and hopefully many more of the same.
You can hear from the founder of Maths4Girls, Mina Gerowin, along with Dawn Miller, Country President for Switzerland at Chubb, in our latest podcast.