To this end, the Project carries out raising awareness and orientation actions by professional women from different sectors (industry, higher education, research institutions, ONGs, public bodies, etc.) involved in science and technology. The project is very innovative since it applies group-mentoring methodology to promote STEAM vocations to 10-12 yr. old girls.
Mentors are volunteer female technologists and scientists that work with girls participating in six one-hour sessions during school hours, addressing topics such as the relevance of STEAM nowadays, stereotypes, technological studies and careers, or women in science and technology throughout history. The purpose of these sessions is to help dissipating doubts and objections about these professions, clarify their motivations and strengthen their self-esteem to start the career path, if they so desire. We also consider crucial to engage boys in this process. Hence, a schoolteacher works in parallel with boys the same concepts and activities. Mentors are a critical part of the project, along with girls and boys.
Their profiles are available at http://inspirasteam.net/mentoras
In many cases, mentors’ company or organization support their participation in the project. They sign the INSPIRA STEAM Compromise to disseminate the objectives and need of such projects, and to raise awareness among their community. More than 30 organizations have signed until now this Compromise (i.e.Siemens Gamesa, Bridgestone, Vodafone, SAP, Tesa Assa Abloy, etc.).
The project starts in January looking for mentors and schools for approximately six months. After a presentation meeting, where we explain the rationale, objectives, methodology and other details of the project, mentors and schools definitely register to participate. In September, mentors receive two training sessions; also, schoolteachers that work with boys are trained in the gender perspective and resources of the project. The sessions with girls and boys start at end-September. We recommend doing one session 2 every 1 to 3 weeks, so the whole project may last until December.
INSPIRA STEAM brings in several innovations to the promotion of technological vocations:
- The methodology used: group mentoring dynamics with girls from primary school;
- It brings together female scientists and technologists to address key issues for promoting the interest and please of girls towards STEAM;
- It adapts the concepts to students age, those identified as key to overcoming girls' barriers to STEAM careers (i.e. what STEAM are, identifying them in their environment, discovering the careers and their professional development, its multiple fields of application);
- Mentors receive two four-hours training sessions to prepare themselves for the challenge. One session about mentoring methodology and the second includes the gender perspective of the project, as well as a review of the materials for mentors and students.
The material developed has been designed and supervised by a large number of agents (i.e. teachers,
experts, mentors, girls, etc.). It is a set of resources –session guides- for mentors and a workbook for girls and boys, which encourages reflection beyond the school, with their peers, teachers, family and friends.
INSPIRA STEAM was born in the Basque Country, led by the University of Deusto (Bilbao, Spain), in collaboration with the Innovation Agency of the Basque Government, Innobasque. In its first edition (2016-17), it engaged 11 schools, 17 mentors and 230 girls. The running third edition (2018-19) involves, only in the Basque Country, 159 mentors, 81 schools and +2000 girls and +2000 boys. A diversity of schools participate: small and big, from rural and urban areas, semi-private and public. The list of schools is available at:
The project is funded by:
- The Regional Governments of Bizkaia,
- Gipuzkoa and Álava,
- The BBK-Kutxabank and Roche.
Other organizations support the project providing resources and training, i.e. Hewlett Packard, Dow Chemichal Company and the City Hall of Sant Cugat. Female mentors are volunteers in the project and schools do not pay anything for participating. From the second year, other regions joined the project: Barcelona, Madrid and Cádiz. Other regions have also shown interest, such as Sevilla, Málaga, Galicia and Navarra.
The INSPIRA STEAM project started its first edition during the academic course 2016-17, reaching more than 230 girls. In the present third edition (2018-2019) +2000 girls participate, meaning an increase of almost 1000%. Bearing in mind that this edition also involves boys, the message will reach also +2,000 boys. The number of mentors has also increased dramatically: from 17 mentors in 2016-17 to 159 in 2018-19.Consequently, the number of schools participating has also increased more than sevenfold: going from 11 in the first edition to 81 schools in the third one.
The project has extended to other regions in Spain, beginning in 2017 with INSPIRA STEAM Catalunya, promoted in collaboration with the City Hall of Sant Cugat, Hewlett Packard, Roche and the University Autònoma de Barcelona. The project involved +100 girls from 3 schools (2 in Sant Cugat and 1 in Barcelona) immersed in this experience by 11 female mentors. In its second edition in Catalunya, it is being implemented in 10 schools, with 45 women working with +300 girls and +200 boys. In Madrid, also in its second edition, 30 mentors are working with 160 girls and 150 boys in 3 schools. The last region to get involved is Cádiz, contributing with 12 women, 6 schools and more than 100 girls and 150 boys to the project. Other regions have shown interest in implementing INSPIRA STEAM (i.e. Galicia, León, Sevilla and Malaga).
One of the key aspects of INSPIRA STEAM our concern to measure rigorously the impact of the project on boys and girls. For this purpose, we asked students to answer three questionnaires before (pretest) and after (posttest) participating in the sessions. These questionnaires, validated previously by other authors, aimed at measuring students’ self-efficacy and attitudes towards technology. The results from the analysis show, regarding their ATTITUDE TOWARDS TECHNOLOGY, that:
- Practically in all items the attitude towards technology was worse in girls than in boys (with a slight exception in I9-”I have a referent who uses technology in his career”). However, in the post-test this trend is inverted in four items:
- Girls show greater values than boys in I2-“I am able to complete activities that involve technology”,
- I4-“I will learn about new technologies and it will help me in school”,
- I5-“If I learn a lot about technology, I will be able to do many different kinds of careers”,
- I10-“I would feel comfortable talking to people who have careers in technology”.
- The improvement in the attitude towards technology between the pre and post-test is notable both in girls and in boys. In both cases, there are improvements of more than 10% in I5, I8-“I'm interested in careers that use technology” and I10.
Results from the SELF-EFFICACY questionnaire show that:
- Girls have a better self-efficacy rating than boys in general in all items, both in the pre and post-tests.
- Girls improve in general with INSPIRA STEAM, and more significantly in four items related with the achievement in difficulty contexts.
The satisfaction questionnaire, answered at the end of the project, shows that girls have a very good perception of the potential of women in STEAM. The most valued items are: “I think girls can be very good scientists or technologists” (4.9 out of 5) and “I think it's necessary for other girls to participate in Inspira STEAM” (4.4 out of 5). During this third edition, we improve the impact assessment including two more questionnaires:
- About professional interests;
- About their references in STEAM and the identification of STEAM in their life.
We use the pre and post-test in the experimental groups, those who implement INSPIRA, but also in control groups, which do nothing or alternative activities related to computational thinking.
As mentioned, more than 30 renowned companies have signed the INSPIRA STEAM Commitment, with which they facilitate women working in their organization to participate in the project and raise awareness of the “gender and technology” issue in their community. Signers at:
Also, 344 individuals and organizations have signed the INSPIRA STEAM Manifesto, available in six languages. It constitutes a commitment of the people and organizations that adhere to it, to work actively for equality between women and men in the scientific-technological field. Manifesto and signers at:
The funding from public and private institutions, 65000 euros per year, is used in the coordination of Project members and activities, the design and creation of material for mentors and students, the training of mentors and schoolteachers, as well as to the extension and support to other regions in their initial phases.