Why Are Fewer Girls and Women Interested in Working in STEM?

Today marks International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day celebrated by 68 countries who support and promote women and girls in science. According to recent UCAS data, 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women. For years women have been underrepresented in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) university courses and in the workforce. 

STEM Women have used UCAS data to recognise and make conclusions about the gender gap in STEM. They concluded that the overall percentage of female graduates with STEM degrees is steadily growing however the split is still only 26%. Additionally, the percentage of women who join the STEM workforce is 22%. This is evidence to show that women need more encouragement to study STEM subjects and begin careers in this sector. 

Why are fewer girls and women interested in working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)?

According to Engineering UK, girls perform better academically in most GCSE and A level STEM subjects than boys and are more likely to progress into higher education. However, only a small number decide to study STEM at A level, and even fewer decide to progress onto engineering apprenticeships or degrees. 

Barriers to women engaging in STEM are complex, studies have found various factors including gender stereotypes and working cultures play a huge part. 

It appears that the challenges for women begin at a very young age. The toys girls are encouraged to play with, and the vocabulary parents use to describe the world to them are just a few examples of how deep-rooted gender bias is and how it can impact the everyday lives of girls.

4 Barriers for Women and Girls in STEM

1) Biological differences between men and women

2) Fewer female scientists/engineers as role models

3) Cultural pressures on girls to conform to traditional gender roles 

4) Lack of positive experiences with science in childhood 

In order to help tackle some of these barriers we must start with our young children and encourage them to become familiar with STEM. There are plenty of ways you can inspire your young female pupils, STEM learning have created resources for primary children in order to introduce STEM subjects and get them thinking more about the diverse world we live in. You can also download an introduction to engineering here. This resource can be used for a whole school assembly and it aims to break down preconceptions about engineering. 

If you are looking for ways to get your toddlers ready for the STEM world try reading The Science-backed Benefits of Free Play.  Children can learn to tackle new challenges in free play using their imaginations and downtime enables them to choose their own play activities whilst strengthening key skills. 






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