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NSYSU organizes a science camp for secondary school girls to cultivate future female scientists

Science has no gender! We need 100% of our brainpower to address global challenges. To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11th), National Sun Yat-sen University organized a visit to laboratories led by female scientists at the University for 165 secondary school girls. The girls visited 13 laboratories conducting research on different fields: photonic liquid crystals, nanotechnology, chemistry, quantum optics, semiconductors, marine ecology, underwater technology. Coordinator of the project of the Ministry of Science and Technology for the cultivation of female scientists in STEM fields, Professor of the Department of Physics at NSYSU and Senior Vice President Shiow-Fon Tsay said that by inspiring girls to embark on the career of a scientist at university, letting them experience science, spurring their interest for it can not only help eliminate gender stereotypes but also educate more female talents in the fields of science and technology.

Student of Pingtung Girls’ High School Hui-Yu Li said that thanks to this event she could learn about the application and operation principles of optical fibers and lasers and understand what is each of the laboratories researching; she admitted that the camp made her want to pursue knowledge in science. Student of Guoguang Laboratory School Yun-Ting Tang said, that she had never visited a laboratory that would not be covered by dust nor such advanced equipment as semiconducting silicon wafers and that during the visit to the laboratories she had the opportunity to see many new objects. “This convinced me even more to go for science!”, she said.

Senior Vice President Shiow-Fon Tsay pointed out that the participating female students are the future power of science and technology. Everyone’s abilities are like a seed that needs to be manured and watered to sprout. Especially in secondary school, gender stereotypes may affect female students’ future study achievements in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). According to research, if a girl is not encouraged by her parents and teachers to study math during this period or even, is told that “girls are not good at math”, or that “girls who are good at math are not attractive”, her motivation and effort put in studying this subject will drop and cause her to obtain low grades. Fewer women than men choose careers in mathematics and physics because they lack self-confidence and thus, women’s participation in these fields is lower than men’s and also, their subjective value judgement of these fields is lower than of other fields.

“Besides actively encouraging girls to invest their time in scientific fields, there is a need for female role models to instruct secondary school teachers on how to teach science“. NSYSU President Ying-Yao Cheng emphasizes, that “women’s abilities in the field of science are not inferior to men’s!”. School education has a direct influence on a girl’s study achievements in STEM and the teacher’s teaching quality is the major factor. In the past, Microsoft Corporation surveyed a group of 11,500 female respondents aged from 11 to 30 years old in 12 different countries to evaluate their attitude towards STEM. Microsoft found out that the respondents lack female role models and hands-on experience in STEM and these were the main reasons why these girls did not consider choosing a professional career in STEM fields.

Gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment do not only benefit the world’s economy but are also goals of key importance listed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations. In 2015, United Nations General Assembly resolution implemented the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11th, with the objective to promote equal opportunities for women to participate in science, support their development and eliminate barriers for women arising from gender inequality in every aspect of life: science, technology, economy, society, law and culture.

In the past year, in the secondary schools, female professors of NSYSU in STEM fields organized 40 lectures sharing their career in science and technology and act as female role models for girls. At the same time, the University organized the Women in STEM Hands-On Workshop and a related forum, letting teachers acquire practical experience in STEM and understand how to apply and demonstrate this knowledge in teaching. The University hopes to change teachers’ attitude towards cultivating female professionals of science and technology fields, support and encourage girls to embark on the career in STEM, and diversify and invigorate the academic, science and technology fields by increased participation of women.
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