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More than half of teachers have developed an unconscious gender stereotype related to science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem)-based subjects, according to research.
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A study by Accenture found 57% of teachers admitted they had gender stereotyped thoughts about studying Stem subjects, and 52% of parents said the same.
As 54% of teachers claimed they had seen girls drop Stem subjects in schools because of parental pressure, this could indicate why more girls do not continue with Stem subjects.
Emma McGuigan, senior managing director of Accenture Technology in the UK and Ireland, said the UK should be doing more to inspire girls about technology at a young age and to keep them engaged later in their education.
There UK has a significant technology skills gap, with many firms complaining that graduates are leaving education without the skills needed to fill tech roles.
McGuigan said: “Inspiring more girls to pursue Stem subjects and careers will not only help us to address the skills gap in science and technology, but it will also help us to create a more diverse workforce that truly represents the world we live in.”
But girls are choosing not to pursue Stem careers, and although girls aged between seven and 11 think Stem subjects are “fun”, only 31% of girls aged 11-14 say the same.
The technology industry is often associated with negative stereotypes, which puts girls off applying for Stem roles.
Read more about Stem
- Influencers within the Stem sectors describe the problems preventing children from pursuing Stem careers, and how they might be fixed.
- Edwina Dunn, chair of the Your Life campaign, says the tech industry must work harder to make students aware of Stem careers if it hopes to recruit more young people.
However, only 32% of young people said they thought more boys chose Stem subjects because they lead to more male-dominated careers.
In the past, girls have also been seen to avoid Stem careers and subjects because they deem them “too hard”.
More than one-third of young people said they were deterred from studying Stem subjects because they were unaware of the types of career these subjects would lead to.
One-third of young people associated Stem with “wearing a white coat”, 52% thought a Stem career was about “doing research” and 47% said it was about “working in a laboratory”. Girls were more likely to make these assumptions than boys.
Half of parents also agreed that children were not aware of Stem-based careers, and 43% of teachers said pupils had a lack of understanding of where a Stem subject could lead.
Collaboration between education providers and industry has been cited as a way to educate children and parents on what roles exist in the tech industry, as well as encourage children to continue with a Stem career.
Olly Benzecry, chairman and managing director of Accenture in the UK and Ireland, said: “We are committed to working with government and the education sector to boost girls’ interest in science and technology.”
As the world becomes increasingly digital, many of the jobs that today’s children will do in the future do not yet exist. Benzecry said this was part of the aim of encouraging young people to take up Stem careers.