As Director of Engineering and Co-Founder of QuestFriendz, a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) educational children’s book publisher, I am incredibly passionate about the world of STEM/STEAM and am on a mission – with my wife and QuestFriendz Co-Founder Lisa Moss – to get more girls interested in STEM learning.
During my time as a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, I was surprised at the limited or, in some cases, non-existent female representation in the Master’s and Bachelor computer science and engineering classes I was teaching. This continued to be the case when I made the transition to industry where, as an innovation and technology leader, I was constantly confronted with the challenge of finding the right talent, with limited diversity.
This is a world-wide issue and although it is beginning to be addressed, there is a lot of work to be done to encourage girls to embrace STEM education and to enter STEM careers. Research suggests a number of reasons for the lack of women in STEM roles, including:
- Girls and young women have a hard time picturing themselves in STEM roles as there is a lack of female STEM role models and fewer STEM extracurricular activities
- Girls perceive STEM subjects as difficult or boring (often before they even start primary school)
- Many parents and teachers still perceive STEM disciplines as more closely fitting boys’ brains, personalities and hobbies
Inspiring an interest in STEM learning from a young age and presenting girls with strong female role models are therefore key if we want to address the STEM skills gap. We also need to educate parents as they are the gatekeepers to toys and books which, from an early age, direct girls’ and boys’ interests and nurture stereotypes.
Our children’s book publishing company, QuestFriendz, was born shortly after the birth of our twin daughters when we realised more than ever that young children need to see STEM as something for them regardless of gender, ethnicity or abilities. We believe that children become better equipped to face a fast-paced and evolving world when problem-solving skills and learning to fail are introduced from a young age. Young children are naturally curious, and this magical state helps to accelerate learning, particularly in the area of STEM.
Our new interactive children’s book series is being created as we speak, and we really hope it encourages more girls to pursue STEM subjects. Think PJ Masks meets The Magic Faraway Tree with a questing, STEAM-learning twist and a strong science-loving heroine, for 4-8year-olds!
To further spark children’s imagination and curiosity about the world they live in, we’ve also developed some educational ‘quests’ – simple challenges that enable young children to find solutions by activating their problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration and creative skills. Check these fun, free activities out here: https://bit.ly/STEMQuestsForKids