Everything else.. SEF Pushing the Envelope on Women in STEM

SEF Pushing the Envelope on Women in STEM

2019 Dec 30

In a day and age of “once in a lifetime” opportunities being every brand’s POS, Sustainable Education Foundation (SEF) does justice to the statement. Founded by a former Google Student Ambassador and alumni of Moratuwa University, Akshika Wijesundara, the core of SEF’s purpose is to make the Sri Lankan education system the most dynamic and effective one in the world. To do this, SEF often comes up with once in a lifetime initiatives to push the envelope on progressive change. 


Seeing the potential of the local educational system, the thought of combining it with Sri Lankan talent based overseas only meant a higher possibility of tweaking the interest of future generations to pursue non-traditional career paths in Research and Social Entrepreneurship.


As a helping hand, SEF established the International Research Council (IRC) Speaker Series which kickstarted in November 2019. And for the inaugural series Nivanthika Wimalasena, a PhD Candidate in Neuroscience at Harvard University and Graduate Researcher Clifford Woold lab, Boston Children’s Hospital spearheaded the conversation. Here’s why this is important news.



Bridging the Gender Gap in STEM

Although exceptional progress has been made in narrowing the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics with initiatives such as GirlsWhoCode and TeachHerInitiative, gender inequality still persists in the foundation level of education. The fact that 20 per cent of mathematics teachers in Latin America believe that boys find mathematics easier than girls makes it apparent that biased stereotypes and attitudes often begin in the classroom. 


Not only that, drawbacks exist from the moment of enrolling girls into school until they eventually drop out of STEM-related higher education subjects during their period of transitioning to the corporate world. As such is a direct impediment on career choices. 


Similarly, social and cultural gender norms often demotivate and undermine confidence, willingness and interest in girls based on the belief that job roles in STEM are “masculine”.


Under these circumstances, initiatives such as the International Research Council (IRC) Speaker Series becomes of utmost importance; taking into consideration numbers such as 29 per cent of those in science research and development being women, with a low rate of 19 per cent in South and West Asia. (According to UNESCO).


Changing this reality, the series provided an opportunity for the audience to hear from Nivanthika not only about her research but also about her journey as a woman in STEM and about the career opportunities in her field.


IRC Member Nivanthika Wimalasena


Given that SEF has a strong following of undergraduate and postgraduate students who are confined to the local education system that encourages rather traditional careers, the Speaker Series was an exciting conversation for the audience to engage in. 


Breaking stigmas and opening the floor to inclusivity, SEF wishes to continue in pushing boundaries; so keep your eye out and be a part of this long-awaited and much-needed change of creating equal opportunities for whoever who wishes to be a part of the STEM revolution. 


Apart from IRC (International Research Council), SEF has also introduced other programs to empower the Sri Lankan student community. Some of the flagships projects include OneLive, ScholarX and Student Ambassador Programme. 



Story of Oxiwear OneLive by Shavini Fernando


OneLive is an interactive webinar series that is conducted via Facebook Live. The purpose of OneLive is to connect industry and academic experts globally of Sri Lankan heritage with local Sri Lankan students to provide career inspiration and access to exclusive knowledge in real-time.


Through OneLive, SEF has managed to invite Sri Lankans from Fortune500 companies like Google, Apple etc, and Sri Lankans from top Universities in the world including the University of Stanford, University of Princeton etc. SEF has conducted 50+ OneLives so far, with 250,000+ unique viewers in aggregate.



ScholarX Graduation 2019 | SX19


ScholarX is an exclusive 3-month programme aimed at providing mentoring support to a selected pool of high potential undergraduate students based in Sri Lanka ideally by a Sri Lankan expat currently engaged with one of the world’s top universities or Fortune 500 companies. It’s SEF’s free premium mentoring platform by Sri Lankans for Sri Lankans working towards creating a culture of knowledge and expertise sharing without the limitation of geographical borders.


Just like the OneLive programme, ScholarX mentors are from Fortune500 companies like Google and Oracle and top Universities (University of Stanford, MIT, Cambridge, Oxford etc.:) Apart from the main ScholarX programme, SEF has also conducted a number of other mentoring programmes to support Google Summer of Code applicants and Imagine Cup applicants from Sri Lanka. SEF has paired over 200+ students and mentors with more than 2500+ mentoring hours logged in.


Student Ambassador Programme

Student ambassadors are SEF’s student representatives within the Universities in Sri Lanka. They act as SEF’s liaison, organising events to promote SEF’s programmes with their fellow student communities. SEF Student Ambassadors are then trained by a diverse group of industry experts over a 5 month free personal development programme to equip them with high demand skills required by employers making them future-ready by graduation, including time management, adaptability, collaboration and business communication. SEF has had 50+ student ambassadors in the past and in the current batch SEF has 20+ student ambassadors from a majority of the Universities all around the country.


For more information about SEF, visit their website www.sefglobal.org or write to them at sustainableedufoundation@gmail.com