It's a well know fact that we don't have enough women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Part of the problem, is helping young girls be confident in their abilities, so that they stick with their studies and go on to higher level STEM studies and careers.
A ground-breaking initiative called the Outbox Incubator, the first ever incubator for women in STEM has just finished; motivating and helping its first group of 115 girls from across the EU to launch science or tech-based businesses. Mary Carty, the cofounder of the London-based Incubator described this ground-breaking initiative as "an Xmen house for Girls".
Mary always wanted to start an incubator and spent a year researching incubators across the world, before partnering with her co-founder Anne-Marie Imafidon, of the award-winning social enterprise, Stemettes, to bring Outbox Incubator to life.
Imafidon founded Stemettes to combat the lack of women in STEM and to ensure all girls can make informed decisions about their future careers. To date Stemettes have worked with over 5,000 girls through hackathons, panel and school events and exhibitions. So Outbox Incubator was a natural progression; giving talented girls support on the next step of the entrepreneurial journey.
The focus here is 100% on the girls and how they will be different coming out of the incubator; confident in their abilities to execute their ideas along with a network of industry leaders and mentors. July the 27th was a watershed moment as 115 girls embarked on this unique programme that gives 11-22 year old girls/women mentoring, funding and support to launch science or tech-based businesses. The programme finished on the 5th of September and was a roaring success.
'Some girls come to the house with ideas, others have shown strong aptitude in maths or science or have won international awards and others are blogging and using technology to build communities online' explained Carty.
The Outbox Programme:
Outbox Incubator is an intensive residential programme delivered over 6 weeks over the summer holidays, to cohorts of 45 young women at at time, all under one roof in a house in London. Industry professionals delivered over 90 sessions on business development, fundraising, marketing and design along with 30 downtime sessions including yoga, art, knitting and rock climbing.
The programme is split into two phases:
- 3 weeks of 'Germination' followed by a public 'Demo Day' and
- 3 weeks 'Incubation'.
Demo day on August 15th saw angels and mentors pledging money, time and support to 29 companies; most formed during the first three weeks at Outbox.
Sponsors & Partners:
Girls do not have to pay a penny to participate as all costs and materials are fully funded by the Salesforce Foundation with supporting partners Microsoft, O2 Think Big/Telefonoca and WISE - whose patron HRH Princess Anne launched the incubator in April.
So how did the first programme go?
Since the end of the programme last week, Mary and the Stemettes team have been inundated with thank you letters and messages from the girls. Here is what some of the first participants had to say:
"Now I really believe that STEM is not only for boys',
"Thank you for giving me the confidence to speak and a reason to believe I'm not weird anymore".
"I finally feel like I belong".
To date, 35 companies have been launched by the girls during their stay. Many are concerned with the most pressing issues of our age; food security, bio diversity and chronic illness. Solutions to these problems are being found through better germinating seeds, habitats for bees and wearable technology devices for chronic illness.
One of the most important outcomes of this programme was the spirit of collaboration between all the girls. They really brought their whole selves to the program and have created a network of peers and friends for life. What more could you ask for.
Perhaps the best quote was from Mary's 9 year old son who asked :
'Mum, do you think these girls will build better things than Microsoft?
To which he promptly answered it himself, 'of course they will!'.
In my mind, there could not be a more fitting summary to a fantastic first experience.
Building a new future:
Initiatives like Outbox Incubator are crucial to grow the number of young women embarking on STEM careers.
"Currently, only 13% of the current UK STEM workforce are female, compared to nearly half in the wider community. Outbox Incubator supports girls who feel they are not being taken seriously at school, at home or by their peers because their interest in STEM is considered "weird" and "not for girls". Our Outbox Execs prove that girls can do STEM and thrive. Let's change the ratio together!"
Mary Carty, Co-Founder of Outbox Incubator.
Our vision is to grow Outbox internationally so girls who are passionate about STEM can receive mentorship and support to start their own science/tech company.
To be able to do that, we are currently looking for new sponsors and partners. If you are interested in actively changing the ratio, please contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.