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Almost 30% of LGBT+ young people choose to avoid a Stem career

A large number of young people who identify as LGBTUA+ have avoided choosing a career in science, technology, engineering and maths because of discrimination fears

Almost 30% of people aged between 13 and 23 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, undefined, asexual (LGBTUA+) have chosen to avoid a technology career, according to research.

A study by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) found that 29% of LGBTUA+ young people avoided a career in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) because of fears that they would be discriminated against.

Overall, only 26% of girls in this age range said they were interested in pursuing a Stem career, compared with 43% of boys.

Jo Foster, diversity and inclusion manager at the IET, said part of the reason why some young people do not want to consider a career in engineering and Stem is because in the UK, these subjects have 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,” she said. “This, coupled with the fact that there is an estimated annual shortfall of 59,000 technicians to fill engineering roles, clearly demonstrates a need for action.”

Stereotypes surrounding Stem roles, as well as the type of people who work in the Stem industries, are often blamed for preventing the sector from attracting diverse talent.

In the IET study, 34% of young people said the ability to work in interesting fields was more likely to encourage them into a Stem career, and 26% said the large number of job opportunities would do the same.

But the number of young people in education currently interested in Stem careers is low – only 12% said their current Stem studies would encourage them to pursue a career in that field.

Many believe collaboration between industry, education providers and government is the best way to break down gender stereotyping. The IET’s research found that 27% of people think the responsibility for promoting Stem as a possible career path lies with teachers, 10% think it is the responsibility of parents, and 14% feel the government should do more to encourage young people into Stem.

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However, teachers and parents still appear to be contributing to industry stereotyping, with more than half of teachers admitting to gender stereotyping Stem subjects, and only 9% of parents wanting their children to become tech entrepreneurs.  

Others say giving young people access to diverse role models can encourage them into the Stem industries as they can see how other people like them have succeeded.  

To encourage more diversity in the Stem industry, the IET has launched a video campaign called #SmashStereotypesToBits which showcases several female engineers, aiming to shift the opinion of the one in 10 young women who think Stem subjects are more suited to boys.

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