Centuries of gender bias are still affecting the world today. A particularly prevalent example is that STEM subjects, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, remain extremely male-dominated, with under half of all STEM students in most universities identifying as women. This bias is shown not only at higher levels of education but also in KS4, with a survey taken by the British Government's’ Education Sector in 2019 showing that nearly twice as many male than female students chose a science-based subject as their favourite. To try to reverse this, the CREST Scheme is working in partnership with Newstead Wood School, an all-girls grammar school in Orpington, to reduce gender bias and increase the representation of women in STEM. 

The CREST Awards describe themselves as “a scheme that inspires young people to think and behave like scientists and engineers.” There are several different levels to the project, ranging from Bronze to Gold awards, which can be extremely beneficial for students as they age and want to continue developing their knowledge and skills. The actual project itself is composed of a group project, planning, and carrying out an experiment, and writing up and evaluating the collected data.  

Tise Oloyede, a Year 10 Newstead Wood student, did the Silver Award as part of her electives in the autumn term. Her area of research was based around colour psychology and studying how the colour of a product’s packaging affects its popularity amongst consumers. 

Tise has had a greatly beneficial experience with the project, agreeing that she “would recommend it as it was a very open experience where you’re free to express your interests”. When brainstorming for the project, she was recommended by the project leader, Nigel Sharma, to choose a topic which she is passionate about but perhaps is not very knowledgeable about, as this would help her branch out and improve her understanding of the wider world. This freedom allowed her to improve her decision making, as she had to choose a practical topic that she could easily do an experiment about. Looking to other school students as their study group, Tise and her team chose to do a social experiment based on psychology, marketing and advertising, and perceptions of consumers on products.  

For the experiment itself, which is a key component of the CREST Award scheme, Tise and her teammates wrapped up chocolate bars in an assortment of colours of paper and sold them to students around the school. They recorded which colour sold out first and was therefore more appealing to customers. 

One reason why Tise feels that this project has aided her in STEM is that her ability to find solutions quickly has improved. She reveals that they “encountered a few unexpected problems which we had to solve quickly,” including shipping issues causing delays in the chocolate bars arriving. This would be relevant to a more advanced STEM experiment, where effective and rapid problem-solving are required for most experiments. 

Another advantage of the CREST Award was that “It helped me improve my organisation skills as we were given a limited amount of time,” with a total of 30 hours of work being expected to put into the project by each team member. 

In terms of the difficulty, Tise mentions that due to the more independent nature of the project, it would not be suitable for younger years. However, the Bronze version of the award is targeted at students who have just started secondary students, so it should be accessible to budding scientists of all ages. The other side of the coin to this argument is that older students, especially those in exam years such as year 11, may not have sufficient time to complete this project alongside revision and preparations for mocks and the real GCSEs. Although the project can be completed during the elective, it would require immense time-keeping and organisational skills. Overall, Tise advises the optimal ages to be “Years 9-10; it requires good planning but also isn’t too difficult to take part in.” 

Tise agrees that the CREST project is impacting positively on her motivation to do STEM on a further educational level. She states that even though “It is a problem as women are being prevented from bringing new perspectives and ideas forward,” the award “has encouraged me as women deserve better representation in the STEM field and I would like to be a part of that.” 

Whilst it is clear that a lot of effort and time must be put into level the playing field for women working in STEM, the CREST Awards are helping immensely at a younger age, encouraging aspiring scientists to research their passions and work towards their dreams.