Why aren’t more girls in Europe studying STEM? What can we do to change this?


June 19th, 2017

That was the subject of a huge Pan-European research project conducted by Microsoft and the subject of a recent webinar they held.

As someone who is passionate about encouraging more girls into STEM and reducing the inequality around STEM in the workplace I was also interested to see if there were any insights that I could incorporate into my own work. I work within a team that produces free STEM resources for girls and boys in schools, and runs a teacher training programme.

11,500 girls aged 11-30 from 10 different countries including the UK took part, the top insights are below.

Interesting isn’t it? Good for us to see that ‘girls crave creativity and hands on experience’. Our STEM challenges in particular give them the opportunity to do that, so according to the research will help convert their interest into a passion…so we’re on the right track!

The report also stated that the closer work around STEM was to real life the more helpful it was for girls. They really like to understand how STEM can be applied. This backs up something else I heard at a presentation from Raspberry Pi…that in the main boys like tech for tech’s sake, whereas girls like it as a tool to achieve something.  Again this support how our STEM challenges and other materials that focus on real life applications of STEM in the developing world.

Other points that got my interest were that the teachers were actually more influential than parents, and it didn’t matter if that teacher was male or female. Mentors also hugely influential, which support the UK STEM Ambassadors programme.  One slightly quirky finding was that whilst for some girls approval of peers to go into STEM was important, others quite liked that it was seen as a bit unusual, it was that that attracted them! A breakdown of the most important factors can be seen below.

At Practical Action we will continue to work with partners to ensure our materials are inspiring to girls as well as boys.

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