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‘Girls' Day in Science’ is now ‘Science Day’: »Young people don't always see themselves in binary gender categories«

The annual event is to change its name and concept to involve young people across genders, ethnicity, culture and religion.

Last year more than 6,000 girls and young women visited 140 universities and companies throughout the country for Girls’ Day in Science. A new record, according to Maiken Lykke Lolck, director of the natural science outreach centre Naturvidenskabernes Hus, that organizes the event.

»Girls’ Day in Science has been a huge success. The day has really taken off, especially in the last couple of years, and we can see that both organisers and schools are happy with the offer.«

But even though the number of registered schools, companies and universities has risen steadily over the past ten years, the event will now change its name to the more gender-neutral Science Day. This is due to the fact that attitudes towards gender have become more fluid, according to Maiken Lykke Lolck.

»Our argument has always been that we would solve a gender problem with a gender-related approach. But since we started the campaign ten years ago, a lot has happened in the gender debate. Young people can’t always see themselves in binary gender categories, so it no longer makes sense to focus on a gender-segregated drive,« she says.

A wider focus

It has been Girls’ Day in Science’s goal from the outset to inspire more women to take a natural science or technical education within the so-called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Their interest is to be awakened via an annual visit to businesses and to university subjects in the natural sciences and technology dominated by men.

The trend

Girls’ Day in Science has grown since 2018:

2018: 1,700 Participants.
2019: 3,200 Participants.
2020: More than 4,500 were registered, but most events were cancelled due to corona.
2021: 5,000 Participants.
2022: 6,000 Participants.

On the day, girls and young women in primary and secondary schools gain practical experience with natural science and hear about a wide range of study programmes. This will continue to be the goal, even though the concept is now being widened so that anyone can participate regardless of gender, says Maiken Lykke Lolck.

»Now the goal is just for all children and young people, regardless of gender and background, to experience STEM subjects as an option. For us, it’s about representation. When we talk to universities and companies about the event in the future, we will emphasize the importance of representation across genders, age, ethnicity and culture to an even greater extent. We want a broader focus on the need for diversity in general, and particularly on the STEM programmes.«

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According to the director, the organisation has in recent years received an increasing number of enquiries from young people who do not see themselves in the two classic gender categories, but who still want to participate. Several boys have also asked why they were not able to use this opportunity as well. Several upper secondary schools have, at the same time, been critical of participating in a gender-segregated event. This is the trend that they are reacting to.

»We are simply following the trend in perceptions of gender, and how young people think. But we will, of course, retain as much of our current concept as possible, because it has worked well.«

Don’t you run the risk that more boys suddenly opt for computer science, for example, because they visit that programme? This would potentially reduce the diversity of this programme.

»We would also like to get more boys into the STEM subjects. It would not be a problem for more boys to choose this path. The goal is for everyone to see STEM study programmes as an option regardless of gender. Stereotypical perceptions of gender and study choices should not stand in the way of choosing a STEM programme. That is also why the people who meet the students on Science Day should also be as representative as possible.«