Female STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics ) professionals and students play an important role in boosting the involvement of girls and women in STEM. Role models can show the broad range of STEM-study programs and professions, demonstrate that they enjoy their work and that it fits their aspirations and attainment. They support the growth of girls’ self-confidence and interest in STEM-related subjects. The support of female professionals as role models is integrated in many of VHTO’s activities. The women who participate signed up for the role-model data base Spiegelbeeld (“Mirror Image”), containing more than 2000 female STEM professionals and students.
VHTO takes great care in selecting role models for speed-dates, guest lectures, work shadowing, mentoring etc. Not all female STEM professionals are good role models; girls have to be able to personally identify with a role model. For this reason, VHTO’s role models receive a special training to prepare them for their important job. VHTO organizes meetings between role models and children throughout the entire chain of education (from primary to higher and vocational education) to provide counter stereotypes that children can identify with.
Additionally VHTO has been committed to make teachers, parents and career advisors aware of stereotypical associations and behaviour. VHTO offers them tools to avoid this and helps them encourage girls to develop their talents in a STEM gender-inclusive environment. STEM companies, institutes and universities are also involved. This results in a comprehensive, longitudinal approach, tackling the issue from different perspectives and on different levels.