The five years in every UK girl’s life that decides if she will work in STEM

1 August 2017
In the recent research conducted by Microsoft shows that the windows to foster girls’ passion in STEM is narrow.For examples, girls in the UK become interested in STEM subjects just before the age of 11 but this drops sharply when they turn 16. In addition, less than half (43%) of those surveyed said they would consider a career in STEM.
One of the twelve-year-old girl in the survey said she benefited from her mum being a scientist at a pharmaceutical company. “They say science is quite hard. But I say if you put your mind to it, it’s quite easy,” she said. “Sometimes when teachers explain [science] it’s not really fun, but my mum, because she knows a lot about it, she explains it more thoroughly and more interestingly. She influences me in the way I think about it, so it’s not really boring.” Having a role model was one of the most effective ways to prevent girls falling out of love with STEM subjects.
Others findings included parental and teacher support, practical experience and knowledge of STEM subjects’ application in the real world, and girls believing they will be treated as equally as men working in STEM are equally important. For example in UK, 44% of girls say that both parents talk to them about STEM, 53% believe there are encouraging role models out there, but 62% percent would like to see more encouragement coming from professional female coders, developers and lab scientists. Twenty-three percent feel STEM subjects are geared towards boys.
One of a 17-year-old girl in the survey said the importance of learning STEM subjects should not be underestimated. She and her classmates were encouraged to participate in science 15-year-old: “There was a lot of emphasis on female empowerment and women being able to do anything. We were always encouraged to do as much as we can to represent females in science.”
Among all the practical steps to sustaining young women’s interest in STEM, five of them are key:
1. Female role models
2. Practical experience and hands-on exercise
3. Teacher mentors
4. Real-life applications
5. Confidence in equality
I will share more our insights here in our next blog.