Girls underestimate their STEM potential, study finds

One in 10 girls think that careers in STEM are better suited to boys

New statistics highlight a stark difference between boys and girls, as well as other demographic groups, considering careers in STEM – with more than one in 10 girls thinking careers in the subject are better suited to boys.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) led research also found that just 26% of girls are looking to pursue a career in STEM, compared to 43% of boys which could dramatically impact the diversity of fresh talent coming into the sector.

The poll of 13-23 year-olds also showed it isn’t just girls who have fears over starting a career in STEM. Over a quarter (29%) of respondents who identified as LGBTUA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender, Undefined, Asexual) opted against having a career in STEM due to worries they would be discriminated against.

With International Women in Engineering Day on Saturday 23 June, the IET is now calling for action via a new video campaign designed to remove pre-conceived industry stereotypes that might be stifling young people’s career choices within STEM.

Just 26% of girls are looking to pursue a career in STEM, compared to 43% of boys

The #SmashStereotypesToBits video features five real-life female engineers turning the idea of a stereotypical ‘pillow fight’ on its head by using their skills in engineering. It aims to inspire young people to consider STEM and engineering as a career – only 12% of those surveyed said their current study of these subjects makes them want to pursue it.

Jo Foster, IET Diversity and Inclusion Manager, said: “Engineering in the UK suffers from a huge image problem. The research backs up fears that gender stereotyping within STEM careers is alive and well, potentially damaging the diversity of talent coming into the industry. This coupled with the fact that there is an estimated annual shortfall of 59,000 engineering and technicians to fill engineering roles, clearly demonstrates a need for action. 

The IET believes that more needs to be done to ensure that STEM is being promoted as a viable career path for everyone, a belief shared by many, with over a quarter of people (27%) surveyed for the campaign saying the responsibility lies with our teachers, and over one in 10 (14%) thinking the government needs to step in and do more. A further 1 in 10 believe this responsibility lies with parents.

The research also looked at the things most likely to encourage young people in considering a career in STEM with the ability to work in interesting fields (34%), the large number of job opportunities available (26%) and greater earning potential (20%), coming out on top.

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