An equation for girl power

How do you get girls keen on STEM? Pay them in nerdy shirts for every equation they solve.


According to Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba, in 2019, only 17.3% of newly licensed engineers in the province were women, 33% of newly licensed geoscientists were women and only 1% of both identified as Indigenous.

EGM is looking to drive those numbers up, so the association (which regulates and promotes the industry in Manitoba) has worked with agency Juliet and ecommerce company Shopify to set up a website dubbed “Girl Power” (where, in a nice touch, the word “power” is represented by the equation FxD/T). The site is looking to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers, and is letting them wear their ambitions through shirts representing subjects like algebra, physics, geometry and chemistry with equations and diagrams. But to prove their nerdy bona fides, students pay for the shirts by solving the equations or answering questions about the diagrams, all of which are pulled from the current high school curriculum in the province. The idea, as the website says, is that if having this knowledge can get you a free shirt today, “imagine what it could get you in the future.”

A major part of the campaign is not just getting another message about girls in STEM out into the market (as numerous brands and non-profits have been doing in order to champion closing a gap in those fields), but also to let girls in school, specifically, know the academic path available to them. Right above the shirts on the website is a list of the classes they would have to take in order to answer the questions on the shirt and enter the engineering and geoscience fields. This is because early high school is a vital time, as Grade 9 is when students begin self-selecting their future career paths – and when young girls’ participation in STEM education begins to drop off compared to boys.