The Tech Partnership

The study found that interest in STEM subjects starts to wane around the age of 15. This age is a critical time for most young people as they’re choosing subjects so it’s imperative to inform young people earlier.

Can there be a different reality for girls in STEM?

by Karine Barsam, Head of TechFuture

27.04.2017

Can there be a different reality for girls in STEM?

by Karine Barsam, Head of TechFuture

27.04.2017

Last week Ernst and Young published a study suggesting that women are unlikely to use Virtual Reality (VR) in the future (65%). The findings disclosed that women were less impressed about VR than men, describing their experience as “futuristic” and “underwhelming”.

I wondered whether I would feel the same? I tried it. I adorned my head with a pair of goggles and plugged-in. It was certainly a unique experience, but the VR is prescribed by the designers who create the programme. I want free will, choice and control. VR didn’t offer that to me. Perhaps it revealed more about me than technology.

Nonetheless the results of this survey perplexed me. It led me to reflect on the wider issue that few women work in the UK tech industry and are not drawn to it (17%). In the same week Microsoft revealed that women in Russia embrace technology, STEM, science and girls are encouraged to study these subjects and interests from an early age.

Russia has plenty of tech female role models and the inspiration can even be traced back to the Soviet era, when the advancement of science was made a national priority. Yet more needs to be done here in the UK, and across the rest of Europe, to ensure we have more role models in schools to encourage girls to think about STEM in the same way they think about more popular subjects such as humanities.

The study also found that interest in STEM subjects starts to wane around the age of 15. This age is a critical time for most young people as they’re choosing subjects so it’s imperative to inform young people earlier. We know that the working world of the future will need skilled scientists, engineers and technicians of both genders who have experience in STEM subjects and Europe could face a shortage of up to 900,000 skilled information and communication technology workers by 2020.

It’s therefore vital that teachers and parents/guardians encourage the next generation to think about studying these subjects and have an interest in them from an early age.

So what do I think can help?

  1. Female role models. Having visible female role models sparks girls’ interest in STEM careers and helps them to picture themselves pursuing these fields. Local employers could pair up with a local school and drop in to share their career stories with students.
  2. Practical experience and hands-on exercises. Employers could deliver lesson-takeovers, with the support of a teacher, this could be a fun way to bring STEM subjects to life.
  3. Creativity.  Bring together non-STEM related subjects and see how they can complement each other - Digital meets art are making a great job of this, for example.
  4. Digitally savvy teachers. Teachers could become experts on the latest developments and resources available from the Tech world, such as TechFuture Classroom.
  5. Real life examples. Girls become more interested in STEM once they’re able to be applied to real-life situations and how relevant they might be to their future
  6. After schools clubs. If you work in a school, then why not set up a TechFuture Girls club for key stage 2-3. All resources are free.
  7. Employer support. If you’re an employer, then why not support your local school and help them run a club for a couple of hours per year.

To find out more on our work in schools

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