With recent A-Level and GCSE results showing a clear gender gap and marked drop in the number of females taking IT and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects, now is the perfect time to encourage more girls into STEM careers and here is how to do it.
Getting to know the stereotypes
To be able to offer suggestions, we have to understand why women are outnumbered in STEM careers. At the beginning of school years, everyone starts associating languages with girls, and math with boys, and here is where those stereotypes begin.
Many times, this has to do with interest, meaning girls are less interested in math, which can be explained by a phenomenon called ‘stereotype threat’. For example, girls will do worse on math quizzes if they are previously told that nine out of ten mathematicians are male. Recent studies show that girls are less likely to take STEM subjects due to deep-rooted beliefs, even though they do better than the boys in exams.
Statistics have shown that 60% of boys named one of the STEM subjects as their best, math (29%) being the favourite, compared with girls at 33% and 17% respectively. Regarding technology, 14% of boys and only 5% of girls said it was their favourite subject. While 30% of girls said, they would consider studying a STEM subject further, compared with 53% of boys.
Peer pressure also stops girls from being more interested in STEM careers. At a young age, when they are developing their interest in STEM subjects, many girls are ridiculed and considered nerdy. This has a big impact on their confidence when in truth, young boys and girls are equally capable of learning math and science.
How to encourage girls into STEM Careers
Bring more girls into STEM fields
By including girls more in science classes and encouraging them to try it and learn it, we are creating a different atmosphere which ultimately leads to breaking of those stereotypes since seeing girls in those classes becomes normal.
Forster a love for math
Another way to make girls more interested in a STEM career is to encourage maths tutoring. This is a great way for them to do well in school while also getting more motivated to pursue a science career.
Better education about career choices is also an important part of the process. Schools should lead on this by organising field trips, work experience or career days where kids and students can learn about how people work in STEM industries.
Cultural stereotypes are one more reason why we don’t see as many girls in STEM fields. By breaking them, we will change the traditional role girls have in our society. So, raising awareness and teaching girls about equality is crucial as well.
Businesses can help encourage more female STEM professionals into their organisations by making sure there’s a seat for them at executive tables. If men continue to outnumber women in senior positions, it becomes challenging to create strong male advocates or allies of female talent.
Successful women as motivation
Show girls the power of women in STEM careers by highlighting all the influential women throughout history. By seeing their success, and the impact they made on technology and science, girls will feel more inspired and motivated.
These historical women should be remembered for the significant impact they have had on modern society. For example, Marie Curie made a great contribution to science with her research on radioactivity. And then there’s Margaret Hamilton, who as a computer scientist developed software for NASA’s Apollo space programme.
The value of girls in STEM
Why is bringing girls in science and technological fields so important? Firstly, scientific research is more reliable when both genders are involved. Secondly, viewing the problem from different perspectives is one of the most effective ways of dealing with it. Besides, including women creates a larger talent pool to choose from and many more experts.
Another, more general reason, is that the world needs more STEM professionals so, why not women? This will go some way to improving both gender equality and gender pay disparities that exist in the workforce.
Improved economic stability
There is even research which shows that having women in STEAM fields improves economic stability, simply because women are good for business. And those women can further motivate other girls to follow them.
The 21st century is a time of equality and overcoming gender differences. And what better place to start than education. Including, motivating and encouraging more girls to pursue a career in STEM fields will not only create equal status and break stereotypes, but also help improve science, and technological advancement.