Statistics emerging from research led by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) highlight a stark difference between boys and girls – as well as other demographic groups – considering careers in STEM: more than one in 10 girls think careers in the subject are more suited to boys.
Researchers also found that just 26% of girls are looking to pursue a career in STEM compared to 43% of boys, which could clearly impact the diversity of fresh young 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. More than 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.
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. 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 is one of the world’s largest professional bodies to promote engineering to multiple audiences and we want to continue to utilise our position to raise awareness of this issue. The #SmashStereotypesToBits campaign is one of the ways in which we can achieve this, by flipping stereotypes on their head and spreading the message that engineering is a cool and recognised career choice for women.’’
The IET believes that more needs to be done to ensure that STEM is being promoted as a viable career path for everyone, with over a quarter of people (27%) surveyed for the campaign saying the responsibility lies with our teachers, and more than one in 10 (14%) thinking the Government needs to step in and do more. A further 1 in 10 believe the responsibility lies with parents.
The research also looked at the things most likely to encourage young people to consider 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.
To find out more about the campaign and watch the video, visit www.theiet.org/smashstereotypestobits