What motivated you to initiate the campaign?
The Ayrshire College Student Association developed the #ThisAyrshireGirlCan initiative after being inspired by the #ThisGirlCan campaign which encouraged women into sport and celebrated their achievement. We felt that Ayrshire College had some pretty inspirational women of its own – and not just in sport!
I wanted to see a change in Ayrshire and the college also had plans to address this, so we worked on it together. From the start, the college has supported the student association to develop a strong campaign that may help us see changes in Ayrshire in the not so distant future.
How did the campaign get going?
We started with a celebration on International Women’s Day in 2015 by asking students to make a pledge on standing up for equality for women, about women being strong. Both men and women supported us on the day – including the college Chair Willie Mackie, Willie Coffey MSP and Alan Brown MP. The encouragement I got on that day made me think about how I could turn this into something bigger.
What is the focus of the campaign?
I spoke with our Principal and other members of staff to see how I could help address the gender imbalance by developing a more sustainable student association campaign specifically for the sports department. This is when I realised that the biggest area where women are under-represented was in the area of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). In the UK, women make up 47% of our workforce but only 13% in the STEM sector.
We decided that our campaign should celebrate women who have embarked on studying towards careers such as engineering, technology and trades which are traditionally dominated by males. We wanted to help address the gender imbalance in these subjects and show that if this Ayrshire girl can, any girl can.
What are your hopes for the #ThisAyrshireGirlCan film?
In partnership with the college, education, industry and the third sector, we hope that the #ThisAyrshireGirlCan film will help to attract girls at an early age to subjects which are currently dominated by their male counterparts.
It is important for families to understand the opportunities available to young people and help foster an environment where future career choices are based on interest and aptitude, rather than gender.
The film celebrates 22 women on STEM courses at Ayrshire College – including Modern Apprentices working in companies like GSK, Hyspec Engineering and Spirit Aerosystems. A copy of the film will be distributed to every primary and secondary school in Ayrshire. We hope that the inspirational women in the film will inspire others into STEM.
I never thought that the campaign would be as successful as it has been – it was even been shortlisted in the NUS Scotland Campaign of the Year award!
Watch the #ThisAyrshireGirlCan video