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Student for a week: Growing the female talent pool in the STEM professions

The Equal opportunities & Diversity Unit at the University of Wuppertal seeks to attract young women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the STEM professions – and each year, it invites girls from Year 10 and above to attend our STEM Taster Week. The programme is a chance for girls to find out about a wide range of subjects and professions of the future in the field of science and engineering.

While female students account for around 50 percent of the new university intake each year, they are still underrepresented in STEM subjects: only around 30 percent of girls choose degrees in this field. That is why the STEM Taster Week is still a key tool for attracting women to STEM subjects 20 years after it was first launched. This early taste of studying STEM offers young women an insight into the wide range of opportunities open to them, and encourages them to ignore prevailing stereotypes and choose their degree subjects with an open mind.

The STEM Taster Week called “SommerUni” runs two weeks before the North Rhine-Westphalia school summer holidays and is the chance for young women to experience day-to-day student life. School lessons take a break and are replaced with university seminars, tutorials, lectures, lab sessions and excursions. Learning, discovering, research and experimentation are the name of the game.

In the lead-up to the event, pupils can choose from a whole selection of classes, putting together their own individual timetable to explore their personal science and engineering interests or get an overall picture of their options and possible combinations for STEM subjects.

The young women then get the chance to experience real, live uni in small groups led by female student tutors. Other university facilities – for example the university sports facilities, the central student advisory service and the university library – also give an insight into the academic world: a world that is not just about quality teaching and research, but also the right environment in which to study and the support on offer. Visits to local companies are also arranged each year alongside days in lecture halls and seminar rooms. These visits give participants a behind-the scenes look at the everyday professional lives of engineers and scientists.

Most of the young women attending the STEM Taster Week come from Wuppertal, Remscheid or Solingen, but the event has now also transformed from a regional programme to a national project: it is now increasingly also attracting participants from other towns and cities in North Rhine-Westphalia and other regions of Germany.

The STEM Taster Week has been running since 1997. The programme has expanded over the years in terms of classes, partners, tutors and above all participant numbers. To date, more than 3,700 young women have attended more than 1,700 classes and events, with surveys at the end showing just how much they get out of this taster week. Many participants have expressed a clear desire to study a STEM subject.

The STEM Taster Week is a truly worthwhile experience for its young participants, giving them a unique insight into a broad range of subjects and an exciting taste of research – and of the questions and challenges of the future. The University of Wuppertal is a young, modern university in the heart of North Rhine-Westphalia with strong links to industry, and leading companies offer placements for our students and allow site visits.

This year's STEM Taster Week unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the dates for next year have already been scheduled: 21 to 25 June 2021.

zuletzt bearbeitet am: 30.10.2020