07/03/2018 09:15 GMT

The Birmingham Group Championing Girls In STEM That's Won Over Meghan Markle

Women currently make up less than a quarter of the UK’s science, technology, engineering and maths workforce.

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Meghan Markle will make her first visit to Birmingham on International Women's Day 

Meghan Markle will tomorrow spend her first official visit to Birmingham celebrating International Women’s Day, as she continues to champion female empowerment.

Joined by her fiancé Prince Harry, the 36-year-old actress will travel to the city on Thursday for an event hosted by the Stemettes, which encourages girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).  

Meghan’s appearance at the organisation’s event - the latest leg of her and Prince Harry’s pre-wedding UK tour - comes after the former UN women’s ambassador last month told crowds there has been “no better time” to empower women, calling on people to “help support them”.

Women have long lagged behind men in the STEM workforce, leading to Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, who was 11 when she became the youngest girl to ever pass A Level computing, to establish the Stemettes.

Although women currently make up less than a quarter of the UK’s STEM workforce, the group has now has now worked with 17,500 young people through its mentoring programmes, industry visits and public gatherings.

Jastina, now a 25-year-old engineer, believes she would have struggled to secure a job in tech without the Stemettes.

“I had no idea that the STEM fields were male-dominated before I started university,” she said. 

“I got questioned a lot throughout my education. I would be asked: ‘Maths is challenging - are you sure?’

“Not having support was tough, but it made me work even harder.”  

Jastina is one of 17,500 young people Stemettes has helped break into STEM industries 

Jastina first enrolled in the Stemettes mentoring scheme after a professor told her to reach out to other women in the industry “so I would stop feeling like I didn’t belong there”. 

As part of the programme, Jastina attended the Grace Hopper Conference, the world’s largest gathering of women in technology. 

“Walking into that conference and seeing all those women in tech, I was like: where have you been all my life? I felt like I had finally found my place.”

“I’m still the only female in my area of the office, but I found a place where I feel like I fit in too. Where every other person is dealing with the same thing.” 

Harry and Meghan will also use their trip to Birmingham to meet with apprentices from the Coach Core, a Royal Foundation scheme designed to train underprivileged young people in sports coaching and mentoring.  

The royal couple visit to the UK’s second city follows official trips to Nottingham, Brixton, Cardiff and Edinburgh following their engagement in November.