A science badge? Drone flying classes? If you’ve never had much to do with Girl Guides, you might imagine it’s all about orienteering and selling cookies, but Guides are encouraged to develop skills and confidence in any area that interests them – and as The Weekly recently discovered, science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is becoming an increasingly popular pursuit.
Sarah, 12, a Girl Guide from Wagga Wagga, dreams of being a medical scientist, inspired by Florence Nightingale’s pioneering work in the field of nursing.
“I want to make a positive impact on the world by learning first aid to help people in need,” explains Sarah, who has a vision of seeing more girls in science.
Alina, 13, also from Wagga Wagga, has her eye on forensic science – just like the “godmother of forensic science”, Frances Glessner Lee.
“I want to make a positive impact on the people around me,” says Alina.
Meanwhile, Olivia, 15, from Coogee, has taken inspiration from a famed Australian obstetrician.
“I want to be a biomedical engineer or something else in the medical field, to make money from some great innovation and then use that money to build houses for the homeless,” she says.
“This is just like Catherine Hamlin, a gynaecologist, who used her wealth to give back to the women of Ethiopia by providing them with more healthcare.”
Girl Guides Australia nurtures the aspirations of girls, whether they dream of working in forensic science or engineering, or simply want to learn first aid.
This year, Guides were treated to a peek at what they could achieve, when some alumni who have gone on to success in STEM shared what a pivotal experience their own time as Guides had been.
Engineer Emily Hack says one of the best things the Girl Guides offers is a safe place to try new things.
“For me it has been really transformative, as generally I try to avoid failure.”
Natasha Hendrick is principal geophysicist at Santos Ltd and a Rhodes Scholar, and says her time as a Guide showed her girls could do anything.
She volunteers for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and donates her time to Women Who Code, mentoring young women who want to excel in the tech industry.
“The huge array of activities I was exposed to as a Guide provided a safe, supportive space in which I learnt to try new things, be brave, and grow,” says Natasha.
“I became a young woman who dared to be different through my choice of career. And today I can look back and say my Guiding experiences made me one of those sought-after scientists who are also adept managers, effective communicators and connected leaders.”