STEM Accenture report
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Survey finds girls’ interest in STEM drops drastically as they get older

8 Feb 2017

As girls get older, they are more likely to be influenced by gendered stereotypes, limiting their interest in STEM subjects.

Parents and surrounding culture are known to greatly influence the thought process of a child, especially when it comes to deciding if they might want a career in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) when they grow up.

However, according to a new survey from Accenture on the attitudes children, young people and adults have towards STEM as a career choice, it appears that stereotypes dominate across the board, much to the detriment of young girls.

Fear of lab work

The survey was conducted among 8,500 people in the UK and Ireland and found that on average, girls are more likely to think of a STEM role as one more suited to a man, even more so than boys themselves.

It found that more than one-third of young people overall (36pc) are put off studying STEM because they are unclear about what careers these subjects support.

They believe the roles of STEM include: ‘doing research’ (52pc), ‘working in a laboratory’ (47pc) and ‘wearing a white coat’ (33pc).

This relates to the fact that one-third (32pc) of young people think that more boys choose STEM subjects than girls because they match supposedly ‘male’ careers or jobs.

Also, 51pc of parents and 43pc of teachers agreed that students lack understanding about career options related to STEM.

The older they get, the less they’re interested

A worrying sign for attempts to increase the number of girls in this sector, more than half (54pc) of teachers claim to have seen girls dropping STEM subjects at school due to pressure from parents.

This falling interest was confirmed in the results, which showed that among girls aged seven to 11, 50pc describe these subjects as fun and enjoyable, but this drops to 31pc and 36pc in the 11-14 age group, respectively.

“Our research reinforces how preconceived notions of what a STEM career entails may be derailing the interest of young people, especially girls,” said Paul Daugherty, chief technology and innovation officer at Accenture.

“Educators, parents and business and technology leaders must find creative ways to spark and sustain a passion for STEM for girls, from youth to young adulthood. We must show them that a STEM education can prepare them to join the future workforce and open doors to exciting careers in nearly all industries.”

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Colm Gorey
By Colm Gorey

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic. He joined in January 2014 and covered AI, IoT, science and anything that will get us to Mars quicker. When not trying to get his hands on the latest gaming release, he can be found lost in a sea of Wikipedia articles on obscure historic battles and countries that don't exist any more, or watching classic Simpsons episodes far too many times to count.

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