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STEM or STEAM – does it matter?

08 November 2019
Written by Colette Cohen OBE

Since Marie Curie in 1903, only 17 women have won a Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry or medicine, compared to 572 men.

Only 28% of all of the world’s researchers are women.

Such huge disparities, such deep inequality doesn’t happen by chance and isn’t because of just one thing……lets explore the education angle.

UNESCOs recent report on Cracking the Code indicates that propensity to science and engineering is not related to sex. It is strongly related to how much technical education children are exposed to (yes, it really does help to get those little neuro-connectors working early). And there is a greater tendency to provide technical education to boys than girls.

Combining or expanding that education to language and written skills further enhances performance in maths and science.

So, it would appear that STEAM is even more important than STEM.

But what is STEAM? STEAM investigates the same concepts (SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, & MATHS), but does this through inquiry and problem-based learning methods used in the creative process – the ARTS bit.

STEAM is not a new concept. People such as Leonardo Da Vinci have shown us the importance of combining science and art to make discoveries and expand our understanding of our world.

And how we work is evolving. We are becoming more reliant on a digital & virtual interface.  The ability to translate large amounts of important data into a visually appealing and easily comprehensible product is becoming a critical skill. If that’s the case, are we not fast-moving towards a world where a creative mind will be a differentiator in the workplace?

Does this highlight the need for greater diversity in our workforce?  From embracing arts through to championing broader gender diversity?

On November 8th we celebrate International STEAM Day, so….let me challenge you to go home and discuss STEAM with your kids, discuss the potential and opportunities that studying STEAM subjects together could bring them. Understand the subject options they are being given. And at work, challenge yourself on what more you too could be doing to make a difference on gender diversity.

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