For the Year ended 30 June 2018
The year ending 30 June 2018 was a pivotal year for The Invergowrie Foundation. In 2017 the Foundation celebrated its 25th Anniversary. We also commenced the implementation of the strategic direction that had been approved by Council the previous year. The strategic direction for the next 3 to 5 years is to focus on improving opportunities for girls using a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) lens.
In January 2017 the Foundation engaged the University of Melbourne and Deakin University to undertake a research project that would focus on creating a roadmap of what is being undertaken in the STEM area (with a focus on girls’ education) both in Australia and globally.
The result was the launch of The Invergowrie Foundation STEM Report Girls’ Future – Our Future at the Annual General Meeting in November, which was held at the State Library. The report was launched by the Lead Scientist for Victoria, Dr Amanda Caples. Since the launch, the report has been distributed to all Invergowrie member schools. In addition, the report has been circulated more widely with Dr Caples using the report as a catalyst for a broader discussion with stakeholders in Victoria to increase the focus on STEM and to improve STEM literacy and career opportunities at school level.
The findings in the research are a call to action for anyone who is concerned about this issue. Not only are girls not taking these subjects at school, they are not receiving a balanced education.
It has been estimated that 75% of the fastest growing occupations, including those in the creative industries and humanities, will require STEM related skills and knowledge. Critical thinking and problem-solving, analytic capabilities, curiosity and imagination have all been identified as critical “survival skills” in the workplace of the future.
The implications for not addressing this issue now will have major ramifications going forward. These include a lack of gender balance to align with real world experience, the absence of equal opportunity for all people and a decline in the economic empowerment of women. The area of economic empowerment of women is of growing concern in Australia today with many women unable to support themselves in their later years. If girls and women are not encouraged to engage with STEM now they will be at greater risk of becoming excluded from the workforce of the future.
The research found that:
The issue of gender participation is complex and deeply embedded in cultural and schooling practices. Stagnating or declining participation numbers in STEM education indicates the entrenched nature of this problem that limits girls’ access to life pathways that will become increasingly important in coming decades. Interviewees in this study stressed that, whatever initiatives are undertaken, they need to be based on evidence, carefully conceived, and involve in-depth processes and monitoring.
In brief, the main initiatives identified for focus based on the research were:
- Developing and conducting a program aimed at young children, parents, carers, teachers and career advisors to address unconscious biases and stereotyping of girls’ interests and abilities in STEM subjects.
- Supporting networks of teachers and schools that collaboratively investigate interventions aimed at changing curriculum content and pedagogies of STEM so that they engage all students and their diverse interests. This may include collaboration with experts from industries and universities. Such interventions could be targeted at particular groups and subjects such as primary mathematics in low SES schools, or years 9 and 10 curriculum and pedagogy interventions in rural schools.
- Investigating the impact and keep track of specific intervention: Finding out what works, how and why, collating and disseminating these insights (e.g. through a clearing house), will help to inform the policies of governments, schools, universities and industries.
- Managing the organisational and logistical aspects of interventions, and to support special events such as information and career evenings, guest appearances, or special learning experiences.
- Brokering and supporting negotiations between education and industry representatives and to coordinate activities in a region.
The Council believes, that this research provides a valuable contribution to the work being undertaken in this area and provides the basis for our deliberations as to how the Foundation can provide support in the area.
The Annual General Meeting also provided an opportunity to acknowledge the Foundation’s contribution over the last 25 years and to capture this in a short history of the Foundation which was compiled by Kim Bartlett.
At the beginning of the year I spoke to (almost) all of the current Principals of the Foundation’s member schools. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with these amazing people to find out what they are doing in the STEM space and to also seek their thoughts on the direction that Invergowrie is taking and to gauge their thoughts on what role Invergowrie might play in supporting the work they are doing. I certainly appreciated the time that everyone gave me and their openness and willingness to provide constructive feedback as well as providing insights into what they are doing. It was a valuable exercise to undertake.
In April 2018 the Council met to deliberate how to build on the research work that has been undertaken.
A facilitated workshop produced a strategic intent which will be used as a framework as we look at the opportunities to invest in the STEM area.
As at the end of June the Council was considering a number of smaller initiatives that might be supported. These initiatives are innovative and of a high standard and the Council is very excited by what is being proposed.
From an operational perspective the Foundation did not make any new grants in 2017/2018 (but grants will be resumed in the coming year). Grants where funding commitments had been made in prior years continued. The total disbursements since the Foundation’s formation in 1992 to 30 June 2018 is now $8.755 million.
Our strategy to strengthen the investment base of the Foundation has continued and the Treasurer’s report provides a clear picture of the financial position of the Foundation.
In concluding this report, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of the people who continue to work tirelessly for the Foundation:
The members of the Finance Committee continue to provide a high standard of stewardship of the Foundation’s investment portfolio in conjunction with our investment advisor Mrs Sandi Tuddenham of Bell Potter Securities. The Finance Committee is chaired by Anne Sarros and the members are Heather Schnagl (Treasurer), Judith Potter, John Symons and Neil Tonkin and their commitment and passion is greatly appreciated.
I would like to acknowledge the work of Kim Bartlett, the CEO of the Invergowrie Foundation. Kim has continued to provide the Council with a high standard of support and we are very grateful to her for everything she has done to keep things in order during our transition.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the work of all of the members of the Council. As I have acknowledged before it is a privilege to be able to work with people who are passionate and committed to the values of The Invergowrie Foundation. Thank you to Susan Stevens (Deputy Chair), Heather Schnagl (Treasurer), Meg Hansen, Judith Potter, Lisa Ronald, Anne Sarros and Susan Just, your work is greatly appreciated.
The Invergowrie Foundation continues to evolve and adapt so that the Foundation provides a valuable contribution that continues to benefit the education of girls and women in Victoria.