More must be done to stoke girls' interest in STEM fields
- While 91% of teenage boys and girls already have an idea what kind of job they want to pursue after high school, only 11% of girls ages 13-17 are considering STEM careers, in comparison to 36% of boys in the same age range, according to research from EY and Junior Achievement.
- The analysis shows similarities and contrasts between boys’ and girls approach to future employment, with 85% of teenagers expecting that they will have to pay for some or all of their education in the form of loans, scholarships or jobs.
- According to the data, 54% of boys intend to prepare for their “dream jobs” by learning technology skills, in comparison with 27% of girls. Boys and girls also split on the importance of collaboration and building relationships, with girls seeing it as more vital than boys, with 50% of girls prioritizing it, compared to 31% of boys.
The gaps between genders, in terms of STEM interest and proficiency (as well as concerns about a shortage in the number of qualified applicants for future STEM jobs), has spurred private industries, the public sector and educational institutions to respond. The Armed Forces offer STEM camps which target underrepresented groups in STEM learning, and institutions like MIT are working to present women as models of STEM success —more than half of the video lessons available via the institution's BLOSSOMS (standing for Blended Learning Open Source Science Or Math Studies) program were created by women.
Still, women make up only 24% of STEM workers, despite being 48% of the country’s workforce, according to information from the U.S. Department of Commerce. But the survey’s results indicate schools must begin earlier by more robustly promoting STEM options for younger students, as the data indicates the underrepresentation may be prevalent by the time female students reach the ages of 13-17. But promoting a culture of support and innovation will help encourage more educators to take on the task like Sandra Wiseman, the school library media specialist/technology integration specialist at Woodsdale Elementary in West Virginia who is introducing and integrating tech into K-5 education. Educators often report that grade level disparities in a single classroom are caused by widening gaps in earlier grades, and STEM learning for women is likely similar; the earlier the girls are engaged, the greater the likelihood they will develop an interest in the fields.