Children’s book initiative set to inspire more diversity in STEM careers

In the UK, only 12.8% of women are engineers.  An all-woman collaboration  from South Wales  is tackling this head on, leading to Tarmac launching a fictional children’s book aimed to inspire youngsters whilst encouraging them to not let go of their dreams.

‘What’s a girl to do?’ was the dream of Tarmac Aberthaw’s environmental co-ordinator, Kara Bennett, and communications consultant, Nicola Jenkins but it was after partnering with local author, Alison Powell and illustrator, Emily Jones, that the book was brought to life through the eyes of Ellie – a determined young girl who knows what she wants in life but faces negativity and obstacles along the way.

Vale AM, Jane Hutt and year one pupils from Rhws Primary were the first to hear the story as the book was launched at Rhoose Community Library on Friday 21 June.  The young pupils were  thrilled and excited to learn about Ellie’s journey into the world of work.

Kara explains how the book came about:

“Having worked in heavy industry for years I am disheartened to see just how few women consider it as a career choice. This, coupled with the feedback we receive from the schoolchildren we work with through our community outreach programme, was enough for us to want to do something about it.”

‘What’s a girl to do?’ follows Ellie from a young age as she sets out on her quest to be an engineer – but the road isn’t easy. Her classmates think she’s odd, her best friend, Flo, doesn’t understand, her brother says she can’t, and her grandad is behaving strangely. Ellie doesn’t want to give up on her dream easily and the book follows her to see if she can make it in a world that can sometimes be so negative.

Kara added:

“I am lucky that I am working in a job that I love, and I hope this book will inspire other young people to realise that the engineering industry presents so many opportunities that are there for the taking.”

 At the launch, Jane Hutt AM, commented:

“This all-women collaboration is an amazing initiative and has resulted in this brilliant book, I was so pleased to be invited to the launch and to hear the story with the pupils from Rhws Primary School. We need more stories about girls and women breaking boundaries and celebrating their achievements. I’m sure this book will inspire lots of girls to pursue careers in science and technology and I would like to congratulate Nicola, Kara, Alison and Emily on the success of this project.”

Penarth author, Alison Powell, has been involved from the offset of the project and through her carefully crafted language she has brought Ellie and her family and friends to life through the book.

Alison said:

“When I was approached about this project I was delighted – as a mother of two children, I know how important it is to re-enforce positivity through all aspects of life, to challenge stereotypes and ensure they know they can strive for any career they choose, regardless of gender, race or orientation.”

 Evan, a year two Rhws Primary pupil, was amongst the audience for the book launch and said:

“I loved the bit in the story where Ellie got a job. People didn’t think she could be an engineer, but she proved them wrong. We can do whatever we want when we work hard.”

‘What’s a girl to do?’ will be distributed to schools across the area and copies from the initial print run, funded by Tarmac Cement and Lime, can be requested by emailing kara.bennett@tarmac.com. Tarmac’s Aberthaw Cement Plant will be incorporating the book and associated activities into its community outreach programme.

Aberthaw Cement Plant is the only cement works in south Wales. Cement made at Aberthaw has contributed to some of Wales’ most significant construction projects of recent time, including Pembroke Power Station, The Millennium Centre and home of the Welsh Government – The Senedd, both in Cardiff Bay.

For more information on Aberthaw Cement Plant visit the website www.tarmac.com/aberthaw-plant

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