15 March 2024

Llanishen High School is on a mission to get more girls into STEM subjects – from GCSE and beyond – with the launch of a new workshop series this March designed to inspire.

Despite some improvements in recent years, there’s still a noticeable gap between boys and girls and their subject choices. They’re sadly affected by confidence levels, with recent research by education charity Teach First finding that 54% of girls lacked confidence in Maths, compared with 41% of boys. Whereas the gap was even wider in Science, where 43% of girls lacked confidence compared with 26% of boys. 

At Llanishen High School, Computer Science, Physics, and Chemistry are just some of the subjects lacking in a female presence. However, the school is hoping to change that with some inspiration from leading female voices in Welsh STEM industries.

Starting with ​Vibhushinie Bentotahewa, a Lecturer in Computer Security and Programme Director for BSc Computer Security at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Inspiring students to continue their STEM studies into A Level, she spoke with some of Year 11’s top-performing girls in the first on-site workshop of its kind which covered opportunities available in the field of cybersecurity, cyber espionage, ethical hacking and defensive security as well as training opportunities that are tailored specifically for girls pursuing STEM subjects. 

Dr Vibhushinie Bentotahewa from Cardiff Metropolitan University said: “It’s incredibly positive to see Llanishen High School proactively working to encourage more young women into STEM subjects. We cannot improve representation across STEM professions in Wales and beyond if we first do not build confidence and skills at the school level. I’m very proud to be involved, and I hope to see other schools follow their example.”

Speaking of the event, headteacher Mrs Sarah Parry said: “We were thrilled to welcome ​Vibhushinie this week for a STEM workshop with our Year 11 girls. Representation matters, and we know how important it is that our students see that anything is possible through the huge range of career opportunities now available to girls looking to enter the STEM industries. 

“But like many sectors, you’ll need the right qualifications before you can get started. So entry into these professions all starts right here, in school. Now is the time to get inspired, hear from industry thought leaders and understand that they can make a huge impact in Wales. That’s where we come in, and we’re already looking forward to what’s coming up.”

The second workshop was delivered by Melissa Broughton and Rhian Booth from SparkLab Cymru. As two former Heads of Chemistry, Mel and Rhian combined a range of hands-on chemistry experiments. As Wales STEM Awards 2022 winners where they were recognised for bringing science alive for children and young people, they also delivered a presentation on the extensive career paths that are available when pursuing STEM subjects. 

Mrs Parry continued: “SparkLab Cymru inspired us to step outside of our comfort zone and experience the awe of the world around us. We’re hoping to host more girls in STEM workshops in the future, so if you’re a woman working in STEM who wants to get involved, please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.”