Improving gender balance event focuses on solutions

27 March 2015

Helping girls to handle failure, tackling unconscious bias and discovering what educational research says about gender were all explored at the Improving Gender Balance 2015 conference on 20-21 March for people involved in the IOP’s girls in physics projects.

Improving gender balance event focuses on solutions

Among the speakers was Heather Hanbury, head of the Lady Eleanor Holles School, whose previous work has included holding a “Failure Week” and a “Blow Your Own Trumpet Week” to raise girls’ resilience and confidence.

The keynote address was given by Prof. Dame Athene Donald, an IOP honorary fellow, and there were contributions from Heather Mendick, a reader in education at Brunel University, on the meaning of gender and its impact on education and learning, and Pete Jones, a chartered psychologist and chartered scientist, on dealing with unconscious bias.

There were workshops on exploring stereotypes with pupils, teaching methods to support girls in physics lessons, effective grouping in classrooms to engage all students, STEM leadership activities with girls and countering stereotypes in option choices, as well as gauging pupils’ opinions and keeping up the momentum for improving gender balance.

In a panel session led by science journalist Susan Watts, among the panel members was David Brockway, manager of the Great Men project - the only project in the UK that works exclusively with boys to promote awareness and understanding of gender equality. Overall, around 40% of the conference participants were men, which was remarked on as a “surprising and pleasing” aspect of the conference by one attendee.

Around 60 people took part in the event at Churchill College, Cambridge, which was aimed at teachers from the 20 Partner Schools in the DfE-funded Improving Gender Balance (IGB) project, the six Partner Schools in the Drayson Girls in Physics Pilot Project, and the 10 Network Schools involved in the government-funded Opening Doors project. A number of IOP staff working in the projects also took part. Discussion was complemented by lively online dialogue on the hashtag #IGBconf – with participants across Europe and America.

The IOP’s project coordinator for the IGB project, Natasha Plaister, said: “It was fantastic to bring together teachers from all of our girls in physics projects. There was a real buzz throughout, and we hope that delegates left feeling informed and inspired about tackling gender equality in their schools.”

A number of presentations as well as supporting materials from the event will be available via the Improving Gender Balance 2015 group on www.talkphysics.org