Girls in STEM: Powering Economic Growth: Attracting More Young Women into Science and Technology 3.0, the third in a series of research projects carried out by Accenture, highlights some welcome progress in raising awareness of the issue.
Findings continue to show the massive influence of parents and teachers in young girls’ subject choices which can lead them towards or away from a career in one of the STEM disciplines. The research covered a cross section of girls, boys, teachers and parents.
Obstacles that prevent more girls getting involved in STEM
- Negative stereotypes towards STEM subjects and careers as more suitable for boys; and yet girls are influenced more by their parents, teachers and friends than boys.
- Parents' have an influential role in their daughters' education and career choices, yet lack information about career options.
- Fragmented STEM information and less obvious career paths than other disciplines, making it hard for teachers, parents and children to evaluate options.
- A disconnection between industry skills needs and girls’ choices for Leaving Cert subjects.
Almost two thirds of girls (65%) say their parents are most likely to influence subject choices at school, and half said their parents influence their career aspirations. Despite their high level of influence, only one in four (24%) parents feel ‘very informed’ about the variety of STEM career opportunities and 48% feel 'fairly informed' however, a significant 54% stated that they have no experience of modern STEM careers to pass on to their children.
More than half of parents (52%) admit to having personally made subconscious stereotypes about girls and boys when it comes to STEM subjects and more than half of teachers (53%) have witnessed girls drop STEM subjects in school due to pressure from parents.
Girls V Boys
- One third of parents and teachers (29%) still perceive STEM disciplines as more closely fitting boys’ brains, personalities and hobbies.
- One in four girls feel there are no financial rewards for a career in STEM.
- Almost a quarter of teachers feel that the gender divergence in perceptions of STEM begins between the ages of 7 and 11, with one in ten teachers believing that the gender gap begins to appear before primary school.
Another trend affecting individuals and all industries is digital disruption. Technology is fundamentally altering the world of work at a pace not seen since the dawn of industrialisation. Automation, robotics and artificial intelligence now seriously threaten many traditional jobs and functions. Rapidly developing areas like data analytics are creating roles that didn’t exist a decade ago.
The Accenture report makes several recommendations including:
- Early intervention to alleviate negative perceptions of STEM at a young age.
- Help for parents to educate themselves further about STEM subjects so that they have a positive influence on their children.
- Introduction of training and supports for teachers that provide comprehensive information on STEM careers and course options.
- Mandate the inclusion of informal/extra curricular STEM events into the curriculum.
- Alter the way we speak about careers to enable children to envisage what a career in STEM might look like.
Girls in STEM: Powering Economic Growth: Attracting More Young Women into Science and Technology 3.0 sheds further light on the barriers to encouraging girls to study STEM subjects and to sustaining that path through secondary education and into third-level and beyond. It builds upon the research carried out for earlier 2013 and 2015 reports. In the Republic of Ireland, the sample size was approximately 600 people, including students, teachers and parents. This research was undertaken in January 2017.
Download or read the full report here.