MINT women and girls are shaping the future – a look back

5 weeks, over 40 zdi heroines and 7 takeovers by MINTfluencers - the second zdi heroines in October showed once again that the zdi community is emphatically committed to MINT and girls. After the end of the nationwide campaign, it is time to draw conclusions and learn from our experiences in order to be able to reach even more girls and young women in zdi-Heldinnen October 2021. We ask ourselves the following questions: What are we taking away from the campaign month? What positive and negative experiences could we collect? And what can we do even better in the future?

Throughout the month of October, the focus was on personal stories, projects and courses about girls and young women. The overarching goal of the campaign was to promote diversity in MINT and to give the zdi networks, which have been involved in the field of MINT and girls for 15 years, more visibility. Because for us at zdi.NRW, the gender-specific promotion of young talent is by no means new territory.

The idea: show diversity and activate girls

The overarching goal of zdi-Heldinnen-October 2020 was to support girls and young women in being active in the STEM field with confidence and with a lot of joy. In concrete terms, we not only wanted to emphasize the commitment of the zdi networks and student laboratories in the field of STEM and girls, but above all to offer the many STEM-enthusiastic women and girls from NRW and all over Germany a mouthpiece so that they can tell their exciting stories and can exchange with each other.

The reach of our posts in social media, especially on Instagram as the main channel for the campaign, therefore plays an important role as a parameter. In order to measure success, we evaluated the following figures at the end of the campaign: number of subscribers, number of likes on posts, number of interactions with the community. Compared to zdi heroines October 2019, the interaction rate has increased by 60% - which we are very proud of. Because many interactions ensure more reach.

Another indicator of the success of the campaign was the reactions of the STEM community: are girls and women reaching out to join in and get involved? Are other STEM initiatives responding? Are there collaborations as a result of the campaign? This commitment can be recorded qualitatively and has a long-term effect. So let's take a look at each part of the campaign.

The implementation: Our actions

The zdi heroines reported on their experiences in the STEM field on social media

As in the previous year, a central part of our campaign was the Polaroid campaign, in which a woman who deals with MINT introduces herself every day. The aim of the Polaroid campaign was to give girls interested in MINT role models, because scientific studies have shown that there is a close connection between visible role models and girls' sustained interest in STEM subjects and professions.

A total of 40 zdi heroines made it clear to us: Not only MINT is versatile, the women who work in the MINT field could not be more different either. From the technology journalist with a media presence who wants to encourage other women to follow their MINT passion, to the chemical laboratory assistant who works behind the scenes in the development of new medicines - each of them can inspire girls and young women who do not have any in their own environment Have a role model in the STEM field.

For this reason, a MINT-enthusiastic woman reported every day for a month on the zdi Instagram channel @mintblogger what drives her and how she wants to shape the future with MINT. The great enthusiasm of the women for the campaign was reflected in the numerous submissions of testimonials. All heroines agreed on one topic: "We need STEM in order to develop further and to give young people the chance to have a say and help decide what the future should look like.", so did zdi heroine Stefanie Geistert. The 40 zdi heroines shared their enthusiasm for natural sciences and technology and made it clear what potential STEM has. Women from a variety of STEM professions took part: from astrophysicists and wood mechanics to the managing director of an IT system house or chemistry doctoral student. All of these role models have one thing in common: They show how well women fit into MINT. This self-image should be transported through the nationwide campaign and give girls and young women the courage to gain a foothold in the STEM field. Interested girls could be reached directly by placing the zdi heroines on social media.

MINTfluencers and institutions support the zdi heroines October

Current Studies prove that young people attach great importance to the opinion of influencers. For this reason, we have endeavored to cooperate with MINTfluencers on Instagram. We were able to win 7 MINTfluencers for a takeover - free of charge. This is not a matter of course, because influencers are usually paid for such commitment. The zdi heroines October was actively supported by well-known STEM women who reported on their activities on our Instagram account:

The following zdi heroines reported on their STEM activities, among others:

Stina.Biologista (over 9.300 followers on Instagram). Stina is a neuroscience student currently studying in Sweden. On her Instagram account, she tells her followers about her everyday life as a STEM woman.

technikfreunde: The account of the two young women is about showing how exciting it is to question things and just try them out. They are part of the gender2technik research project at the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences and inspire young women in North Rhine-Westphalia to deal with the subject of technical journalism.

Also institutions such as Intombi for girls (online magazine by & for young women), Girls' Day, the project "We strengthen girls" of the German Children and Youth Foundation, MinTU (MINT mentoring project at the TU Dortmund) and "Komm mach MINT" took part in the zdi heroines October with a takeover. Thanks to this prominent and free support, the range of the campaign could be increased and the cooperation with other committed STEM actors strengthened.

On site and digital: courses in the zdi heroines month

Building, programming, experimenting - courses in which the participants can experience first-hand how exciting STEM can be are the heart of the campaign. It is through them that many girls come into contact with STEM for the first time outside of school. Due to the corona pandemic, more autumn holiday courses than ever were held online. But numerous face-to-face courses were also carried out under strict hygiene measures. This includes a number of courses and workshops aimed specifically at girls and young women. In Eschweiler, the girls were able to build and program the BOB-3 robot, in the Girls4Future project in Münster, girls had the opportunity to build their own solar sunflower, and in the Rhein-Sieg district, the participants became technology YouTubers for a day.

Outstanding Work in STEM and Girls: The Spotlight Stories

How can you get more girls interested in STEM? Which concepts and approaches already exist? And how do companies manage to attract young women without clichés?

The zdi networks and student laboratories have been dealing with all these questions for years. Some of them have placed a special focus on this topic and have developed a wide range of recommendations and projects based on their experiences, which can serve as orientation and a good example for others.

That's why we put a spotlight on these special concepts, approaches and successful projects in zdi-Heldinnen October.

Four role models: female scientists from NRW report on their STEM careers

Women are particularly underrepresented in cutting-edge research. The proportion of women in research and development in Germany in 2017 was just 22,6% (Statistics 2019). The number of female role models for young women who later want to work in research is therefore limited.

In order to give girls and young women an insight into the everyday life of female scientists, we spoke to four female scientists from North Rhine-Westphalia: What motivates women to do research? How do you experience working as a scientist? And what advice would you give to young girls who are interested in MINT? They answered these and other questions during the zdi heroines in October.

Women in research were not only an important topic at zdi.NRW in October. With Andrea Ghez, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna, three women were awarded a Nobel Prize this year – surprising when you consider that only 6 percent of Nobel Prizes are awarded to women. zdi.NRW took this as an opportunity to take a closer look at the role of women in science in the dossier “Women and the Nobel Prize”.

One of the biggest motivations for girls to get involved with STEM is often the practical application and the solution of larger problems, such as combating global warming or curing diseases. That's why this month's Instagram format MINTFakt was all about the question: How much MINT is there in medicine?

The conclusion: What will we take away from the zdi heroines October?

The posts on zdi-Heldeninnen October were viewed more than 47.000 times and 100 new followers* were added to Instagram during this time. A look at the numbers shows that the campaign was a complete success again this year. The posts on zdi-Heldeninnen October were viewed more than 47.000 times and 100 new followers were added on Instagram during this time. The response to the zdi heroines month was also consistently positive, as illustrated by the large number of direct messages and feedback on the zdi heroines stories. The targeted placement of the campaign in social media also has a lasting effect on the zdi networks, as regional actors from the zdi community were able to share, network and exchange their stories nationwide via social media: That shows how high the need of a public for the topic. 

In addition to the “pure numbers”, which have developed positively over the course of the month, it is important that the community has been activated: after just a few days, girls, women and other actors showed interest in the campaign to contribute. In the last week of October, two zdi heroines could be placed every day and there were a total of seven take-overs by initiatives/MINTfluencers - instead of "only" four as originally planned.

Long-term cooperations also emerged in 2020 through the heroines October: The project "We strengthen girls" of the German Children and Youth Foundation was won as a partner.

We are aware that one campaign month is not enough to keep the topic STEM and girls present in the long term. That's why we want to draw attention to this topic regularly in the coming months. It proved difficult to place the campaign in the regional and national press. Increased visibility of the action through media representation would mean that even more girls, young women and multipliers who could spread the topic would become aware of the heroines October. Our goal for the coming year is to approach regional and national media professionals early and in a targeted manner. Unfortunately, the blog posts on the zdi portal as part of the zdi heroines October were not well or only moderately well received. These contributions serve to provide a deeper insight into this important topic, a look behind the scenes and are important building blocks in our work. Now it is time to consider how we can make these written contributions more attractive and place them better in the coming year.

zdi.NRW would like to thank everyone who made the zdi heroines October so unforgettable!


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