STEMintheCity is an initiative promoted and implemented by the Municipality of Milan to develop a STEM-oriented culture, encouraging girls to study science and technology, promoting careers for young women and using digital skills as an accelerator in every profession. STEM skills represent a key tool to get more career opportunities. The project started in April 2017 and now is at its 3rd edition, that will be held in May 2019. It consists in two parts:
- “STEM month”;
- “STEM Marathon”.
The costs are totally covered by sponsors. The involved municipal departments are Digital Transformation, Education, Youth Policies, Labour Policies with the support of external agencies for the project management. It has the patronage of the UN and is organized in collaboration with: international institutions (European Commission, UN agencies as UNRIC and ITU with Girls in ICT Day and SDGs), the Italian Government (Ministry of Education and Research, Department of Equal Opportunities), 6 Milan universities, 46 partners and sponsors. In 2018, a new logo was created: STEM+A to indicate that digital is an enabling factor in education and career development, and that the creative, humanistic component is essential in generating new ideas and contents.
STEMintheCity offers free training and activities for a large target: students of all ages—from kindergarten to university – and newly graduated girls. Goal: to create a new inclusive culture without gender stereotypes, therefore we extended the reach to male students. Creating an alliance with the adults responsible for the growth and education of our youth is important; we promote a range of initiatives for parents and teachers.
Stakeholders: An ecosystem of prestigious partners and different institutional levels: schools, universities, educational organisations, institutions dealing with sustainability, education, digital skills and gender equality, IT companies and other municipalities. We selected the partners and stakeholders through a series of open calls asking for contributions in terms of economic resources, support to the initiative, co-creation of contents and dissemination (technical partners and sponsors). Moreover, the municipality activated its existing networks on digital culture and digital skills, the local State and municipal network of schools and the university system. There are three levels of involvement: The first level: Turnkey events organized autonomously by the partners during the STEM Month, and recognised and coordinated by the municipality. A 2nd and 3rd level of involvement take place during the STEM Marathon: the municipality organises and coordinates the activities asking the partners to put either contents or resources or both.
The wider strategy: STEMintheCity is part of the activities related to Digital Education and Digital Skills, one of the pillars of the Milan Digital Transformation Plan (DTP) launched in 2017 (other pillars: Infrastructures and Services). Our experience has inspired other similar activities organised at the national level.
- Training days about coding and digital skills for 50 primary and secondary schools;
- A hackathon,
- Job speed dates,
- Sessions of role modeling;
- Digital empowerment;
- Conferences about gender stereotypes for teachers, parents and companies;
- Events about the value of women in STEM careers and female leadership; the presence of women in politics; international opening event with prestigious female role models from science, military defense, institutions, leading companies in digital transformation.
The initiative is organized in 2 distinct, but interconnected parts. STEM Month features city-wide activities, organized by partners with the support of the municipality. For 3 or 4 days (depending on the school calendar), the STEM Marathon involves free training for all schools and a series of institutional events promoted directly by the municipality. The average project budget is 200,000€ (private and public sponsorships) covering: Project management (80.000€), Direct costs for logistics, catering and other services and fees for the events (90.000€) Communication (30.000€). The Municipality offers free of charge its locations for the implementation of the activities. The process starts in October of the previous year with the project planning and the calls for proposals, and ends 2 months after the end of the event, involving around 80 people working in the organisation and implementation of the event.
The initiative contributes to build innovation and to design an inclusive city, change-oriented strategies that are able to anticipate people’s needs, create a fairer society, and provide real opportunities for growth to all.
The evolution to STEM+A represented a leap forward in terms of connecting the development of digital skills to a wider range of job fields, from art-related professions as design and restoration up to professions related to content creation for AI technologies. Digital skills become essential to create multidisciplinary work teams in the field of scientific research.
The initiative is accompanied by a promotional campaign that, given the issues involved and the young age of the intended targets, is carried out via digital means that ensure high visibility. An expected impact is the awareness raised among leading the ICT companies in terms of access of women to real career development by using digital skills and tools as accelerators and the reduction of gender stereotypes.
There is a concrete measureable impact in terms of participation and follow-up activities. First edition, 2017: +3,000 participants (age: 3-25); 138 speakers, 84 training activities, 5 universities, 54 schools, 45 location, 50 partners. Second edition, 2018: was organized expanding the target to 134 cities of Metropolitan City of Milano and reach +10,000 participants. Target increase of +333%.
Activites: The Municipality and Assolombarda (the regional association of entrepreneurs), starting from 2018, assign 10 scholarships per year to first-year female students of ICT university courses. Moreover, they also assign a special prize in honor of Gaetana Agnesi, first Italian (and Milanese) mathematician.
The unique feature: For the first time in Italy, an important Municipality as Milan has directly involved stakeholders, partners, national and international institutions, students (male and female) to spread gender equality and to create a new gender culture. Collaboration between the public and private sectors is a strategically important aspect of the project. In the same way, the partnership between government, volunteer associations, and other public and private sector organizations was another important driver that made it possible to bring out the many resources of the area and to promote the most significant experiences.
Key sustainability factors: The project is based on a business model that proved to be sustainable in terms of economic resources and stakeholder and partner engagement. The Municipality covers only the 20% of costs covering the pre-event phase. A virtuous process has been triggered among the network of partners.
The model and the framework are transferable and scalable in most cities and contexts. In 2019, for example, the 134 municipalities of the Milan Metropolitan Area will be asked to join the process and implement the activities in their own local context. Moreover, during international exchange of best practices partner cities already ask to import the format.
In terms of Sustainable Development Goals, the items of the project are in line with SDGs 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 17: in particular, Municipality of Milan works to achieve gender equality, better education, the economic growth through the creation of job opportunities and a debate on sustainable cities and communities through the STEM.