In the ever-growing world of technology, men hold the vast majority of positions in the workforce, but Townsville woman Keziah Furnell is on a mission to change this.
As an engineering and information technology student, Keziah found herself consistently disappointed by the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) so she decided to do something to change that.
She began STEM Sisterhood here in Townsville as a way of nurturing young girls’ interests in STEM areas. Keziah strives to ensure these young women have a safe and supportive environment in which they are free to explore the different areas of science that may interest them.
Keziah found that ingrained biases and math anxiety were some of the reasons why there is such an underrepresentation of women in STEM. She decided that to combat this, you have to start dismantling these subconscious ideas early.
“By introducing young girls to science in an environment where you can encourage failure and nurture their scientific curiosity you can overcome many of these barriers,” says Keziah.
“It is wonderful seeing their confidence develop and seeing them forming relationships with the other girls, as well as their belief in their scientific abilities.
“I have always thought if you can identify a problem, you should at least attempt to solve it and so the idea of STEM Sisterhood was born.”
Keziah was given a $10,000 grant from the Philip Leong Youth Programme in 2022, allowing her to bring her idea to fruition.
The business runs school holiday workshops for girls in grades 3-8 where they can let their scientific creativity run wild. Previous workshops saw the girls trying their hand at bath bombs, rubber band boats, fruit forensics and geology, but there is no plan to stop here. Keziah said she is always interested in hearing the girls’ ideas for new areas to explore with the dream being to continue expanding her offering to cater to more areas of interest and more locations.
Recently, she has branched out to Bowen and will be running workshops there later this year. Having already had girls from different areas travel to Townsville to attend her workshops, she is confident the demand is there for expansion. Her particular focus is now on more remote and regional areas to ensure that girls in these locations receive the same opportunities. With a plan to eventually take on employees, which would enable sessions to run even when she is unavailable, Keziah is in it for the long haul.
Thinking even bigger, Keziah hopes that one day she will be able to also expand her offering and the age groups involved by creating networking opportunities between university graduates and experts to encourage mentoring with a vision of establishing useful workforce connections.
“Women in STEM fields often leave after five years because it is such a male dominated industry and if [women] have support and connections established within the scientific community whilst studying this could substantially reduce the loss of our female STEM degree graduates,” says Keziah.
With her workshops receiving a 95% return rate and the business only expanding, there is no stopping Keziah and her dreams for more diversity in STEM.
Main image: Workshop image from recent STEM Sisterhood school holiday program.
Image credits: All images supplied by STEM Sisterhood.
Read our earlier article featuring Keziah Furnell and STEM Sisterhood – Supporting the Next Generation of Business Leaders.
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