Wise calls on industry to encourage girls into Stem

Campaign for Stem gender balance calls on industry to encourage more young women into industry roles, and releases resources to keep girls more informed on possible future careers

Wise has called on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) sector to help break down the negative stereotypes that put girls off Stem careers.

The campaign, which fights for gender balance across Stem sectors, said industry needs to help change how girls perceive Stem careers if it wants to fill the 173,400 shortage of Stem workers across the UK.

Helen Wollaston, CEO for Wise, said helping girls to understand how future Stem roles are impactful may encourage more young women to consider these types of careers.

“At A-Level, only one in 10 computer science students and one in five physics students are female. When you take out health, fewer than one in five of science, technology and engineering jobs in the UK are held by women,” she said.

“We simply have to get better at showing girls that maths, science and technology open doors to exciting, well-paid jobs where they can make a real difference to the world.”

A lack of visible and accessible role models is often cited as being one of the reasons girls may choose not to pursue careers in Stem, and young women would like to have more encouragement from women already in the sector.

As well as encouraging the industry itself to be more involved in encouraging girls into Stem, Wise has created an online resource – alongside sponsors such as Broadcom, BAE Systems and techUK – called My Skills My Life designed to help girls understand more about what skills and subjects lead to what careers.

The online game, aimed at girls between the ages of 11 and 19, helps girls understand their personality types and how this can correlate to different Stem roles, then matches them with women in industry who can teach them more about Stem jobs that will suit them.

Many young girls have also said they choose not to study Stem subjects because they are “too hard”, which is reflected in Wise’s research of 2018 exam results.

Wise found 10% of those studying computer science A-Levels are female, three times more boys than girls take physics A-Level, and boys performed better in maths and physics at A-level.

At GCSE level, although more girls chose Stem subjects at GCSE in 2018, the industry is concerned they will still drop out of the pipeline before they make it to the workplace – and once girls do quit Stem, they often regret it.

Wise developed its My Skills My Life resource to make role models more accessible for young women who may have been put off of a career in Stem because they didn’t see anyone like them in the industry. The campaign hopes to reach 200,000 girls to help them better understand what roles could be waiting for them if they develop Stem skills.

“The resource uses mobile technology to connect girls with young women who have found great jobs using science, technology or maths,” said Wollaston. “It is a simple, modern solution, accessible to every teenage girl in the country.”

There is already a strain on computing teachers in the UK, as many think they do not have the necessary skills needed to teach topics such as coding, and they do not understand the depth and breadth of Stem careers enough to recommend particular paths to young people.

Wise hopes to help tackle this problem by placing female scientists, technologists and engineers from its member organisations into schools to talk about their career journeys and expose them to different types of roles.

Read more about Stem

  • Recruitment firm Monster links up with social enterprise Stemettes to give young people experience in applying and interviewing for technology roles.
  • A science centre in Wales will be given £3m to develop a Stem hub, which will reach more diverse audiences for its delivery of science and technology teaching content.

Read more on IT education and training

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