The GEC idea...
I’m Cat Wildman, I’m a mum of 3. I’m a science graduate and a Director in Technology - STEM is clearly a subject I’m very interested in, on all levels!
It wasn’t until I became an employer that I realised there was such a problem with gender equality in STEM – at school and university we seemed equal in number. As a lover of science with a huge interest in the subject, and a career in technology which I have to pinch myself to believe is my actual job, I was baffled as to why women wouldn’t want to pursue a career in STEM.
As an employer this is frustrating, as a woman it’s confusing and when you encounter gender stereotyping or gender bias in real life, it really is horrific; but it was only when I became a parent that I realised that I have a personal responsibility to change things. If you are a fellow parent you’ll know that the responsibility feels huge.
I started getting involved, and entered the conversation with an article that I posted in response to all the denial of the problem I was seeing and hearing. Comments like “political correctness gone mad” in response to someone asking why all the pyjamas which had dinosaurs on them were in a section marked “boys” and “the world has gone crazy” in response to a comment that the lego in the pink packets had far fewer pieces and seemed to have been made “simpler”.
The article starts off with “what I found out highlighted that we need to be noticing and acting on gender stereotyping messages from the day our children are born. We need to be noticing and acting on it from all angles – school, media and at home as their parents. What we don’t need to be doing is continuing to “fail to see the problem”.”
It quickly racked up views but though my weighing in and saying my piece brought much agreement (and the usual backlash) obviously it did nothing to change anything. What it did do was to grant me entrance into a circle of like minded problem noticers and introduce me to The GEC’s co-founder @nicoleponsford. The women in STEM issue is complex and there are many many variable factors involved. But as a problem solver I have to find a solution – and we think The GEC is it.
What is The GEC?
Our vision is to build a gender equality platform for use in homes, schools and businesses.
Our vision starts with achieving gender equality in schools. There has been so much work done on this topic from our new found friend Graham Andre’s BBC show No More Boys and Girls to the group he’s started #LetSchoolsBeSchools to projects popping up all over the place driven by passionate educators, but there’s nothing central – yet.
In signing the charter, and working towards being awarded a badge of gender equality, schools are making a visible and public commitment to working towards gender equality in their institution. Parents know that their child will be treated equally in every area, from the language teachers use to the activities and sports the students are allowed and encouraged to participate in, to the clothing and hairstyles they are allowed to wear, and the education about gender and equality that will be provided. All the resources, examples, best practices, data and learning can be centralised and used to help generate a head of steam for change in schools throughout the UK and beyond.
At home, parents can commit to being a gender equal family and sign the charter. In return they will be drawn into The GEC community and receive access to learning, resources and even events to help them succeed in meeting their commitment. Parents and teachers working together at home and at school to learn and change, accumulate knowledge and share what’s worked will allow them to benchmark and drive further change. Just these two groups working together on a shared vision of equality would make an enormous difference by themselves.
Extending the charter out to businesses would complete the circle; businesses committing to become gender equal from the removal of gendering in language and behaviours in the office, to bias removal in recruitment, education programs for staff and an equal approach to the responsibilities of parental leave and flexibility are just a few of the small changes that could, when added together across businesses change the UK we live and work in.
Imagine if all the signed up businesses turned their volunteering power towards the signed up schools? That’s potentially millions of professional volunteering hours and coupled with a shared mindset and a common goal, it could do wonders to bridge the gap between education and the workplace.
We trialled a 6 week project, the purpose of which was to raise awareness of all the roles in Technology and that it really is “a place for everyone” no matter your strengths or demographic. On week 1 we asked a class of 25 ten year olds “who wants to work in Technology” and our response was 5 hands, all boys. By week 6 all the hands were up – but not just that. They had had their eyes opened to something – at the end of the project there were hugs, tears and promises like “I can’t wait to be 18 so I can come and work for you!”. That was the result of around just 2 hours of person hours of volunteering per week for 6 weeks. Imagine that at scale.
Businesses employing the children who emerge from gender equal homes and schools will bring a new wave of employees to the workforce who are “native gender equals” – and because it will be alien to them to live and behave any other way, the change will take on a less forced and more natural nature and the UK as we know it, will have changed.
There are so many disparate groups doing amazing work on different pieces of this vast problem. If we collected all of our brain power, networks and resources, we know we would solve it.
I truly believe we can change the world like this. If you believe this too – and want to be part of the solution, sign the Charter today and let’s make this change happen.
Follow my family’s journey towards #smashingstereotypes on Instagram @gendercharter