Young women associate a career in STEM with the chance to invent things, cure diseases and earn high salaries – unfortunately, they also think these roles are better suited to their male counterparts.
In 2013, in conjunction with Silicon Republic’s Women Invent campaign, Accenture published research on attracting more young women into science and technology fields. Two years on, a refresh on this research titled Continuing to Power Economic Growth: Attracting more young women into Science and Technology 2.0 finds that, while some progress has been made, negative perceptions and gender stereotypes persist.
The majority (80pc) of young women and girls surveyed recognised the career opportunities presented by science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). However, almost half (48pc) believe these careers are more suited to men – an increase since the last study.
More than 600 girls, young women, parents and teachers were surveyed for the report, which was launched to coincide with the opening day of Inspirefest, a three-day international event offering new, diverse perspectives on science and technology.
Under the influence
Students’ perception of male careers vs female careers could be coming from the top down. Teachers surveyed identified gendered career paths, with 78pc asserting that nursing, beauty and hairdressing careers appeal exclusively to girls, while the same number said engineering appeals exclusively to boys.
Teachers may not even realise the major influence they have on their students when it comes to choosing a career path, with three-quarters not considering themselves an influential factor.
Additionally, while parents are identified as the strongest influence on school subjects chosen by girls, many feel ill-equipped to fill this role, with almost one-third saying they are not informed on current career opportunities.
Female role models
Another observation carried over from Accenture’s previous report is the lack of female representation in STEM careers. Of those students surveyed, four out of five believe the sci-tech sector lacks high-profile female role models.
In an effort to dispel the myth that STEM success is reserved for men only, Silicon Republic’s Inspirefest conference, which runs in Dublin until Saturday 20 June, features a 75pc female line-up.
This unique event – incorporating keynote presentations, panel discussions and an evening fringe festival with film screenings and music – is an extension of the Women Invent campaign, which has been running since March 2013, to discuss diversity on a wider scale than just gender.
Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths, and is kindly supported by Accenture Ireland, Intel, the Irish Research Council, ESB, Twitter, CoderDojo and Science Foundation Ireland.
This story was originally published at 7.30am on 18 June 2015. It has since been updated with a video report.
Girls in school image by Air Images via Shutterstock