• FFEP

Co-design the future: how girls are building the Business School

How do you engage young girls on STEM and entrepreneurship? And what do girls want to know about the future of work and the skills they'll need to navigate it anyway?

These were among the questions underpinning our student co-design sessions, which we completed last week and which constitutes a major milestone in the development of the Future Female Entrepreneurs Program.

Co-design is increasingly recognised as an essential element of successful programmatic design, because it engages your audience upfront, ensures alignment with their needs, and helps test your assumptions about what they actually want. Our program faces particular challenges on this front because our target audience is wide: girls aged 10-18, including a variety of backgrounds and a range of urban, rural, and regionally located girls.

To address this design challenge - and to embody the values and processes that we will be advocating our future female entrepreneurs follow - we conducted 5 co-design workshops with school girls to drill in to the design of the program. Around 200 girls were included, with innovation hubs and university partners hosting events in Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, Gold Coast, and Newcastle.

As well as inspiring the project team with their enthusiasm and thought-provoking ideas, the girls really brought to light some challenging and important insights. One such insight was that over the 5 workshops, around 40% of the girls could not name a female entrepreneur. Of those that could, only Hollywood celebrity Kylie Jenner was widely recognised or suggested. The lack of role models of women displaying the innovation and entrepreneurial skills needed to solve the challenges of the future, like AI, automation, and climate change, was palpable.

Another key insight was around the barriers to entering STEM and entrepreneurship that girls reported. Key reasons consistently cited were the lack of access to mentors and courses, low confidence, and the previously mentioned lack of female role models. Together, these top 3 reasons accounted for two thirds of all the girls' responses to what was holding them back.

The FFEP team is currently analysing the full results of these co-design sessions, and working on ways to meaningfully implement the insights into our design of a Business School for future female entrepreneurs. We'll be releasing more insights from the sessions over the coming weeks, along with further updates from our consultation sessions with educators, entrepreneurial program providers, and industry collaborators.

In the mean time, it's a fantastic feeling to have spent so much time with our audience, understanding their views, needs and aspirations. If these girls are anything to go by, the future of Australia is in good hands.

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