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|Name of Organisation:||Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Koblenz|
|Main implementing organisation:||Ada-Lovelace-Project Central Coordination Unit|
|Line of Business:|
|End Date:||Still Ongoing|
|Number of Employees||848||54.25 %|
|Employees in R&D||315||43.49 %|
|Number of Employees in Top Positions||142||17.61 %|
|Transferability of the initiative||Programme has already been transferred or will be transferred to another context|
|Type of initiative referring to strategic objectives||individual|
|gender in research|
|Type of initiative, located on the stage of career progression of women scientists||Pre-University|
The project aims to motivate more girls and women to enter science, engineering and maths careers, following in the path of Ada Countess of Lovelace, after whom the project is named, by presenting realistic role models. The mentoring programme draws on the school-to-work movement to help girls and women overcome the barriers to full participation in such careers. It is aimed at inspiring girls, aged 9 to 16 or even older, to consider careers in fields where women are currently underrepresented.
It tackles major barriers preventing young women choosing a career in Science, Engineering and Maths (SEM) fields including:
• stereotypes about science and especially about engineering and their perceived appropriateness for women
• girls’ lack of experience with technology (i.e. choice of toys)
• changing school teaching methods of subjects such as maths, science & technology
• girls’ view that science is boring, not interesting or that girls lack ability/confidence
• lack of mentors/role models.
In 2003/2004 ALP and the Psychological Institute of the University of Koblenz did a longitudinal study designed as a pre-post study with a control group. At the start of the study nearly 260 14/15 year old girls were asked about their interests, opinion on science, mathematics and engineering professions and about their self confidence for these subjects. Over one year, a group of girls was continually accompanied by the Ada-Lovelace mentors, young scientists from regional universities or apprentices from the involved companies. They went to university for technical & science workshops to get practical experience, more self confidence and information about technical/science studies. Afterwards the girls in this group, who judged the offers of the mentors really well, had changed attitudes toward professions in science/engineering significantly compared to the girls in the control group. They were now much more able to imagine working in science and technical professions later on.
The original motivation for starting the programme remains today – there are too few women in natural science and technical professions. Girls receive the same schooling as boys but do not have the same confidence in practicing these subjects. They are more easily put off these subjects and therefore miss out on the opportunities offered working in these areas. In addition, scientific and technical research careers increasingly rely on the social and communicative competences of the workforce. These competences are more often attributed to girls than boys.
The University has had an Equal Opportunities Office for many years and the first Equal Opportunity Plan was drafted in the year 2000. In 2004 the University received the “family friendly university” audit from the Ministry of Industry and Employment. The certificate was renewed in 2007.
School-girls and young female scientists are the direct target group of the initiative. Indirectly, the initiative is also directed at the schoolgirls’ parents and teachers as well as the human resource staff at the companies in which female trainees work.
The Ada-Lovelace-Project was established in 1997 at the Psychological Institute of the University in Koblenz (in Rhineland-Palatinate, this is one of the 16 Federal States of Germany) and is financially supported by the Ministry of Women, the Ministry of Science and the Ministry of Research of Rhineland-Palatinate, as well as by the European Social Funds and sponsored by several organisations and the industry, including well-renowned global players.
The initiative is currently implemented by a team of 14 women. 4 of them are working on a voluntary basis.
Since the project started 13 years ago, more than 300 mentors have been trained and nearly 35.000 schoolgirls have been informed about careers in natural sciences and technology. Many of the schoolgirls that have taken part in the project as participants have gone on to become mentors themselves, passing on their knowledge to new generations of schoolgirls. The project is generally well received. Participants are happy to be able to learn from others’ experience and the feedback always comments on the competence and friendly-way in which the mentors interact with the schoolgirls.
The concept of the project is regularly evaluated and adapted to suit new developments or demands.
Success can be attributed to
The project is funded by the Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs, Health, Families and Women Rheinland-Pfalz through the European Social Fund and the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Culture Rheinland-Pfalz. It has received funding for 13 consecutive years with new proposals being submitted each year. The co-operating universities donate their own funds, e.g. rooms for workshops. Participating polytechnics provide their own funds but also contribute from their ESF funds.
The project is a political priority, therefore it is well accepted.
For the training/apprenticeship part of the programme it can be a challenge to get companies involved as they do not immediately recognise the benefits of being involved (the companies must be prepared to send apprentices as mentors or for showing schoolgirls around the companies, etc.). Companies do not pay to participate in the project but they do cover the costs of apprentices (and sometimes other personnel) and workshop rooms etc.
Initially the Ada-Lovelace-Project implemented school visits and information days. However, to reduce reluctance to participate and increase the practical aspects (thus reducing the theoretical nature) of the project, the activities offered now are predominantly practical (workshops, working groups at schools, school academies etc.). As a result, the participants do not only receive theoretic knowledge but learn practical skills, i.e. how to solder by soldering their own jewellery or computer programming by programming robots to dance. The skills are passed on by mentors both from the university (research) side as well as the industry (career) side. As a result the girls learn about both academic and industrial scientific careers.
The university benefits from regular contact to the cooperation partners (i.e. companies) and can adapt the programme to fit the industry’s needs. The frequent exchange with schools in the region (and increasingly further afield) means the university can promote itself to schoolgirls who may go on to study there.
The industry partners also benefit from the programme as they send mentors with real needs to the mentees in school. In this way the company’s also gain access to potential recruits.
The initiative has been running for 13 years; it has been updated to meet the needs of the schoolgirls and the cooperation partners. In 2005 the project applied to become a support association. Association status was granted in 2006. The Association allows the project to extend operation to the national (rather than regional) level. The initiative is currently supported by European and regional funding, a further contribution is made by the membership fees.
The Ada-Lovelace-Project began in 1997, based at a single university in the Rhineland-Palatinate. New organisations in different parts of the region have successively begun to participate in the project. Therefore the project has been transferred to other universities and polytechnics. In addition, the concept has been developed from focusing on higher education and studying to focusing on training/apprenticeship. Therefore the project not only takes on study courses in the MINT (SET) subjects but also the careers related to these sectors. In addition, mentoring for school-leavers and first-semester students as well as specific career orientation measures have been developed out of the main project. The team is currently developing new programme measures for girls with a migration background. The Ada-Lovelace-Project is currently only offered in the Rhineland-Palatinate region.
ALP’s systematic approach lies in the comprehensive way in which it addresses the factors preventing girls from choosing a career in SEM: From societal images of what girl’s are interested and gifted in (stereotypes) and the resulting teaching methods of SEM subjects to the subsequent lack of interest and experience of girls in this area, with few role models available who could change theses views.
ALP has been an early project addressing specifically girls’ views of SEM and according professions. In the meantime, ALP has achieved a remarkable degree of sustainability and success, considering for example the large numbers of participants addressed but also the vast network of supporters and cooperation partners. The original project even resulted in the creation of a non-profit association, lending even more support and durability to the initiative.
Many of the schoolgirls that have taken part in the project as participants have gone on to become mentors themselves, passing on their knowledge to new generations of schoolgirls. The initiative has been successfully expanded in terms of focus and geography. The team responsible for the project remains dedicated to adapting the programme to tackle new target groups (i.e. the new development of measures for girls with a migration background) and situations in line with the needs of the participants and co-operation partners.
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