Sergey Tokarev on STEM is FEM’s second anniversary: Community, module in Zaporizhzhia and exhibition in Germany

The charity educational project STEM is FEM has turned two years old. During this time, representatives of the initiative have held dozens of training and educational events: from webinars on photography and cybersecurity to an internationally recognized art exhibition. Sergey Tokarev, a co-founder of the project, investor of the technology company Roosh, describes how the project affects the lives of its participants and society as a whole and reveals the plans of the project.

The main mission of STEM is FEM is to combat gender bias in the technical sphere and popularize STEM specialties (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) among Ukrainian high school female students. As the main tools for achieving these goals, the project uses educational and awareness-raising activities.

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The project’s main activity is educational modules dedicated to one or another technical specialty. Each module lasts two days: Saturday and Sunday. The modules aim at providing students with a complete picture of work in a particular field during a single weekend. For this, the project invites experienced representatives of the chosen specialty as speakers and teachers. For two years, the organizers of the project conducted 13 modules. High school students have been introduced to the IT industry, pharmaceuticals, architecture, finance, mechanical engineering, robotics, and other areas.

‘The main feature of the project is the motivational part. We invite successful women from different spheres who inspire girls to not be afraid to follow the chosen technical career. Mostly, these are representatives of business, Ukrainian ministries, representatives of international organizations, and foreign diplomats,’ says Sergey Tokarev.

In addition, the project holds technical creativity contests at the end of each module. This way, the girls have created robotic models, 3D models of ecological bicycle stations, developed a plan for introducing new medicines to the pharmaceutical market, made suggestions on new metal alloys that would help solve one of the problems of modern civilization, and so on. The girls’ projects show that they really manage to master the basics of a particular profession in two days, understand its specifics, market needs, and formulate the industry’s key trends.

‘As for me, I mostly like two ideas. The first belongs to Veronica Podlesnova who proposed using modified peptides⁠—defensins⁠—for treating viral diseases. The second was Maria Kalinichenko. The girl came up with the idea of creating a robot that used artificial intelligence to help the Paralympians in training. Now, the girl and her team are developing this idea,’ Tokarev comments.

The winners of the competition are awarded valuable prizes.

‘We try to choose gifts for girls according to the module’s topic. So that they get useful for their career. Thus, we encourage the winners to further develop themselves in the chosen directions. For example, the winner of the Pharmacology module received a professional microscope as a gift, the winner for the 3D Printing module got a 3D printer, Construction and Architecture⁠—a graphics tablet, and so on,’ says Sergey Tokarev.

Apart from that, STEM is FEM organizes dozens of other events. The project has launched, together with the Goethe-Institut, the literature club litMINT, where young people discuss science fiction novels. It also organized webinars on cybersecurity, sketching, photography, managing a private Instagram account, writing motivation letters, searching for educational options abroad. Among motivational workshops, there were “How to speak well about yourself” and “How to be a volunteer.” There are also numerous meetings with international organizations such as UNICEF and UNDP. We should also mention meetings with female scientists. By now, there have been two meetings: within the framework of the Kyiv Book Arsenal and Lviv Publishers’ Forum. The meetings were attended by ornithologist Natalia Atamas, biologist Olga Maslova, geneticists Oksana Piven and Ekaterina Shvanova, embryologist Olga Malyuta, and other scientists.

‘For listeners, it is very interesting to learn about the latest scientific achievements firsthand, and professionals, in turn, have an opportunity to debunk myths related to their work and myths about scientists in general,’ says Sergey Tokarev.

For two years, STEM is FEM events have hosted more than 1000 people, mainly Ukrainian high school female students, as well as young people interested in science, and everyone who wants to be enlightened in related issues.

‘STEM is FEM exists not only during events. The project has long turned into a powerful community with several hundred girls communicating and helping each other outside of common activities,’ says Sergey Tokarev.

In Zaporizhzhia

At first, STEM is FEM educational modules were held exclusively in Kyiv. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, it is easier for students from different cities of Ukraine to get to the capital than to any other place. Secondly, the largest number of speakers work and live in Kyiv: both industry-related speakers, who help girls understand all the aspects of work in a particular technical field, and motivational ones, such as employees of ministries, representatives of the diplomatic corps, and so on.

But in September 2021, the project decided to conduct a module in another city. The project decided to do so since the module topic—metallurgy—was more relevant for a certain part of the country outside the capital.

‘We conducted this module in Zaporizhzhia because it is the heart of Ukrainian metallurgy, and it was most logical to acquaint schoolgirls with this industry in this city. Here, we found speakers who revealed to the listeners the essence of work in metallurgy, and also conducted an excursion around the plant Zaporizhstal, where the schoolgirls could see the process of making steel with their own eyes,’ notes Sergey Tokarev.

SHE is SCIENCE

During the second year, STEM is FEM also started its own subsidiary project—an educational art exhibition SHE is SCIENCE. The project is being implemented with the support of international organizations UNICEF and UN Women in Ukraine. It is based on the stories of twelve prominent Ukrainian female scientists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Modern talented illustrators Sergei Maidukov, Zhenya Polosina, Anna Ivanenko, Olya Dekhtyareva, Anna Sarvira have created stylized portraits of heroines to demonstrate their occupation.

‘We chose a creative approach to make captions for portraits. We held an all-Ukrainian competition for the best essay among girls aged 14 to 21. In total, we received 561 works and chose 12 best out of them—one for each heroine of the project. In their works, the girls not only set out background information about the life and scientific achievements of the heroines but also reflected on how their contribution to the development of science influenced modern life and the formation of gender equality,’ Tokarev said.

The official presentation of the exhibition took place on June 10 with the participation of the First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska and a number of high-ranking foreign diplomats. Since then, the exhibition has traveled around Ukraine, having visited Zaporizhzhia, Lviv, Chernivtsi, Poltava, Krivyyi Rih, and other cities.

‘The exhibition has already been outside Ukraine. The first country that hosted the exposition was Germany. The exhibition was shown in Berlin as part of the networking conference Days of Ukraine in Berlin and Brandenburg,’ Sergey Tokarev shared.

SHE is SCIENCE plans to visit other countries in the EU and the rest of the world. STEM is FEM plans to continue acquainting Ukrainian high school girls with technical specialties and combating gender bias. It is already known that the next module, due to the high demand among girls, will again be devoted to the IT industry.

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