“Now more than ever, youth need to become self-directed, life-long learners. This means we need to alter how we teach and what we teach to unlock their full potential.”– Anu Bidani
Anu Bidani – Founder & CEO of STEM Minds – Canada
2022 WE Empower Finalist, Europe, North America & Other
Investing in future generations is what sustainability is all about, and STEM Minds is getting right at the heart of it. STEM education suffers from particularly imbalanced student demographics. Women and people with disabilities are especially underrepresented, which is why Anu Bidani shifted the paradigm so that as many children as possible can experience the value and wonder of STEM studies. STEM Minds is the inspiringly successful product of her dedication.
Learning How to Learn
STEM Minds is personal for Bidani. She wanted good STEM opportunities for her own kids, but neither core schooling nor extra-curricular activities offered the right fit. She recognized that this need for accessible and engaging STEM education went far beyond her own family, so she set out to offer a solution herself. Since its inception in 2016, STEM Minds has grown from a handful of students in a classroom to over 40,000 internationally studying a growing range of subjects.
SDG 4 Quality Education encompasses the leading goal at STEM Minds. STEM skills are useful for a wide variety of professions even outside STEM fields, and also for successful, supportive education in general. Based on surveys, Bidani shared that “92% of respondents say that their child’s confidence has increased as a result of our programs and 94% say that their knowledge of STEM career options has improved.”
Plus, STEM Minds is changing more than just people’s perception of STEM – kids are also learning in a whole new way. Collaboration in an encouraging, hands-on environment allows students to develop their own ideas and learning styles. Bidani explains how student’s personalized development is increasingly important for success in the modern day. “The world of education needs to be overhauled to keep up with our rapidly changing society. This is where STEM education (and STEM Minds!) comes in. Now more than ever, youth need to become self-directed, life-long learners. This means we need to alter how we teach and what we teach to unlock their full potential.”
A Place for Everyone
The open and accepting culture of STEM Minds lends itself perfectly to dismantling another major barrier to STEM education: unequal access. “It has been well documented that there is a lack of representation of girls and women across STEM fields,” Bidani points out. “Women are half of the US workforce but only 27% of STEM workers.” Education statistics are often even more lopsided. People with disabilities and marginalized communities are at a further disadvantage, so many valuable thinkers for future development are deterred before ever exploring STEM. “We believe that all youth belong in the world of STEM,” says Bidani, “and as such have worked with organizations and communities to ensure access to high-quality STEM learning.” These partner organizations support women and girls and children with learning disabilities, autism, blindness, and more to make education equitable and support SDG 5 Gender Equality and SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities.
Bright Minds for a Brighter Future
Since innovation in STEM is especially advantageous for sustainable development, STEM Minds is working to incorporate more environmental education and news into programs, including a new Environmental Mastery Pathway. “As a woman-owned and majority-women led business, STEM Minds embodies the role of innovative women social entrepreneurs who are taking the lead in creating sustainable, social-impact focused businesses while charting the way for others,” Bidani says. STEM Minds is walking the walk, as well, by monitoring carbon emissions and offsetting them through new trees in partnership with Canada’s Forest Trust. As a Certified B Corporation, Bidani’s enterprise is proudly putting social benefits above profits. In the coming years, STEM Minds hopes to expand into more countries, more languages, and more subjects through their already popular digital content to continue to “empower the next generation of global leaders and innovators.”
“When girls and women are not represented in STEM, not only does this lead to a lack of opportunities for women and girls, but also has an overall negative impact on our world as a whole. Women and girls bring an important perspective and contributions to the table; a lack of representation is a swath of untapped human potential that is being left on the table.”– Anu Bidani
The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge is a first of its kind global competition for women entrepreneurs who are pushing the UN Sustainable Development Goals and leading innovation in sustainability and climate change through their businesses. This Contributing Series highlights finalists of the Challenge whose work demonstrates how business models and social entrepreneurship can drive global impact.