Why is the current situation “Girls vs. STEM subjects” and not “Girls & STEM Subjects” (Part 1)
In January, I chaired an Education Debate in Newham the panel included Lord Andrew Adonis and Professor Becky Francis from King’s College London. There was an interesting question raised by an audience member around improving the number of young women taking STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects. Sharon Hodgson MP (Shadow Minster for Women and Equalities) who was also on the panel shared an alarming fact: Seven of the world’s top 10 well paid jobs are within the STEM field. With the knowledge then that these are male-dominated subjects this is another reason why there are not enough women are in high paid jobs and roles. Since then I have been looking into what the current situation/problem is and the methods that can be adopted to address the issues from a policy perspective, within schools and at home (and the community). Over the next few weeks I will be posting my findings:
What are the problems:
1. Deterimental Stereotyping
Reading Tina Barseghian‘s informative article on stereotypes, Tina pointed out (through the work for Claude Steele) there are negative pressures that discourage girls from taking STEM subjects and on those already engaging with the field. It is these pressures that breeds a spirit of doubt and insecurity which prevents girls from trying harder in maths and science fields. A key issue is that we do not see enough of and learn about (if at all) famous female mathematicians and scientists in the classroom. Meaning that our environment produces what Steele calls a “self-fullfilling prophecy”.
What was also interesting about this article was the comparison made with societies without these negative stereotypes:
“Societies without these stereotypes don’t impose the same burden, Steele says, and as a result, there are a great deal more women engaging in science and math-based fields. ‘Poland, India, parts of Asia, where there are many more women participating in math and STEM fields, the stereotype is much weaker. The girls going into those fields don’t experience the same pressure they do in a society like ours where relatively few women participate in these fields. That strengthens the stereotype and the pressure they can feel.’ ”
We need to give young females hope and make them understand that a challenge does not mean you are not good enough or that you should give up. Carol Dweck noticed through her research that those girls who believed “intellectual ability could be expanded” rather than a “gift” did almost as well in STEM subjects as the boys.
2. Role models
Through exposure to more female role models in the STEM Field more girls will see this a career path as a possibility.
I’ve now added “look up famous and influential females in the STEM field” to my research to-do list.
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