Support a culture of evidence-based practice for STEM gender equity programs
People who run STEM gender equity programs often do not feel confident or equipped to evaluate them . Earlier this year, the Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador asked program leaders how they feel about evaluation. Most of them answered with words like “trepidation” or “fear”. Of 331 STEM gender equity programs in Australia in 2018, only three had publicly available evaluation findings . With so few programs evaluating their impact, we don’t know which programs to fund, what is working, or how to improve what isn’t.
We need to change the culture of evaluation to effectively address the underrepresentation of girls and women in STEM. This change would be most effective if it came from funding organisations and leaders in business, research, education and government. If you’re a leader, use your formal authority and latitude to create a culture of evidence-based practice. Make program owners feel supported and well–equipped to evaluate programs. If you don’t have a formal leadership role, you too can create cultural change. Don’t underestimate your power to lobby your leaders to create change.
1. Make evaluation and open reporting a priority in your stakeholder network 
Embed evaluation and open reporting in funding processes.
Leaders and funding organisations are well-positioned to influence the prioritisation of evaluation and reporting across their organisation. The first step is to communicate to your internal and external stakeholders that evaluation and open reporting are a priority. You can do this through informal or formal conversations in your organisation, and by making these agenda items in meetings about funding STEM gender equity programs.
2. Require evaluation as a condition of funding 
Follow-up conversations with actions. Implement evaluation and open reporting in your funding requirements.
Funders set the expectations and responsibilities of the program owners applying for financial support. When applying for funding, program owners try to meet requirements to successfully secure funding for their programs. By requiring evaluation as a condition of funding, you are setting the expectation that evaluation should be embedded into programs from the beginning.
3. Provide resources and evaluation guidance as part of your funding agreement 
When an organisation is awarded funding, give them the resources to evaluate.
Make program owners feel confident and equipped to evaluate. Allocate funds for evaluation and remove the burden on program owners to scramble for resources to do evaluation right. Moreover, support program owners with evaluation guidance. Include evaluation tools such as resources, data collection and safeguarding methods in the funding agreement. You can provide them tools such as “Evaluating STEM gender equity programs: A guide to effective program evaluation”.
4. Strongly recommend evaluation to be shared publicly 
Once program owners are equipped to evaluate their program, encourage them to share their evaluation findings.
Reporting is common in program funding, and people who run programs are used to it. Extend reporting requirements to include evaluation, and further recommend the findings be shared publicly to get the maximum impact. Program owners who share their findings publicly will help other people know if the program was effective and can work to improve future programs.
Still have a question about evaluation or driving cultural change?
Download “Evaluating STEM gender equity programs: A guide to effective program evaluation” and find other tools to boost cultural change in your organisation.
1. Salmon, R. A., & Roop, H. A. Bridging the gap between science communication practice and theory. Polar Record, 1-14. 2019.
2. Australian Academy of Science, Mapping Australian STEM participation initiatives for girls and women. 2018.
3. Australian Academy of Science, Women in STEM Decadal Plan. 2019.
Clara Gomes is a communicator and writer. She is passionate about creating a more equitable STEM sector in Australia. As the Digital Content Officer for the Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador, Clara creates, edits and shares content on the Office's social channels and website.
Isabelle Kingsley is a researcher, science communicator and educator. Her research focuses on measuring the impacts of science education and outreach. As Research Associate for the Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador, Isabelle is investigating gender issues to inform how to drive needed cultural and social change for gender equity in STEM across Australia.