Representation in Stile’s curriculum

Representation in Stile’s curriculum

Representation of diverse peoples and cultures in curriculum materials is important, very important. Ever since we wrote our very first unit, we have made a deliberate effort to showcase young, relatable professionals for whom science has helped shape their careers. We’ve profiled Olympic athletes, astronauts, and chocolatiers, all in an attempt to get a simple message across: “The world is your oyster, and science is much more relevant than you think.”

Looking back over the past 10 years of lesson writing, there are some aspects of representation that we’re really proud of, but we also have a lot of room for improvement. Allow me to elaborate.

Why is representation important?

A multitude of educational research continues to focus on the topic of representation and why it’s important in schooling (Armstrong, 2021). It’s pretty logical, isn’t it? Kids are more likely to look up to people whom they can relate to: those who look like them and who share similar cultural backgrounds. Conversely, if the role models being served up to kids aren’t like them at all, they absorb a subliminal message: you’re not the right material to be successful in this field.

Where we started: Women in STEM.

Gender equality in science and engineering involves a litany of issues, and it all starts at school. Only about a third of students studying STEM subjects at university are female, so it’s unsurprising that about a third of professionals working in STEM-related fields are female (Leigh et al., 2020).

Why is that? Fundamentally young girls in many countries are systemically discouraged from studying STEM subjects from a young age. Here are just a few of my personal experiences having worked in science education for the past decade:

  • A former Prime Minister’s Prize winner for excellence in science teaching in Western Australia telling me that “boys are builders and girls are readers”, as a justification for why he doesn’t encourage more girls to do science at his school.
  • Female high school students at a prestigious Brisbane school not enrolling in senior physics classes because their teacher told them that physics was a boys’ subject.
  • Seeing countless science classrooms decorated with posters of famous scientists and their discoveries – all of them men.

Sadly, the issue also persists in government offices, which was recently highlighted by this report that found that there was almost no representation of women in state-endorsed science standards.

So what has Stile done? We’ve been relentlessly committed to highlighting and celebrating Women in STEM:

  • We ensure that over half of our career profiles are of women who have succeeded and thrived in their field. At the time of writing, 53% of our career profiles are of women. In fact, every Stile unit has a career profile of a young professional who guides students through the lessons.
  • We run a “Women in STEM” internship program for our software engineering team: each year, one or two high school graduates are offered a paid, full-time internship position in which they are guided and mentored by our senior engineers.
  • We celebrate International Women’s Day as a company, often creating “Women in STEM” posters for science classrooms.

We regularly audit our lessons and have recently started using diversity checklists.

Aside from our career profiles, we often depict people throughout our lessons – perhaps characters participating in a science adventure, or simply images to illustrate a concept. In 2022, we conducted a diversity audit on all people represented in our lessons. It revealed an underrepresentation of non-male and non-white people that triggered a project to replace or introduce more diverse people to our collection.

Today, our team of writers, editors, illustrators, designers, and videographers use checklists to ensure diverse representation when crafting lessons. In addition to ensuring a diversity of cultural backgrounds, these checklists also ensure that we’re showing people who collectively have a diverse range of genders, sexual orientations, and disabilities.

We’ve got work to do.

We know we’ve got work to do when it comes to representation. While we’re proud of our work celebrating and promoting Women in STEM, we’ve been less effective in representing and celebrating a diverse array of cultural backgrounds, especially with our career profiles.

At the time of writing, the breakdown of the cultural backgrounds represented in our career profiles is 2% Middle-Eastern, 5% Southeast Asian, 7% Indigenous, 9% Black or African American, 9% South Asian, and 68% White or Caucasian. While this “representation profile” might be somewhat representative of Australian students (though still white-heavy), it’s certainly not representative of the US student population. For example, none of our career profiles are of Hispanic or Latino people.

Our commitment is to continually work towards a much more equal representation of cultural backgrounds, while of course maintaining our commitment to gender equality in STEM. It’s difficult to assign metric-based goals to such work, so our aim is to always move our collection towards showcasing a diverse range of people broadly representative of the students who use Stile.  We will do so with transparency, just as I am attempting to do with this blog post.

Our approach with our newest unit, Energy Conservation.

To help illustrate our commitment and direction, I wanted to give you a sneak preview of the upcoming re-make of our Energy Conservation unit. The career profile is of Indigenous woman Brook Thompson, a Yurok Tribal member and restoration engineer on the Klamath River. In addition, students will hear from Ange Azani, a Congolese Food Environment Researcher who will introduce some of the complications with the proposal to build the world's largest hydropower dam along the Congo River.

Final remark.

Stile is a company made up of individuals who are deeply driven to equitably improve the quality of science education for students right around the globe. We are committed to continually improve in every way, and representation is just one of those.


Armstrong, A. L. (2021). Representation of social groups in US educational materials and why it matters. New America.

Leigh, K., Hellsing, A., Smith, P., Josifovski, N., Johnston, E., & Leggett, P. (2020). Australia's STEM Workforce [PDF document]. Retrieved from