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More than 60% of girls want encouragement from women in technical roles

Girls have admitted there are role models available to them from the science, technology, engineering and maths industries, but they want to hear from coders and developers

More than 60% of girls have admitted they would like to see more encouragement from women who are coders, developers and lab scientists, research has found.

During a study carried out by Microsoft, 53% of girls between the ages of 11 and 30 said there are a lot of role models available to encourage them to pursue science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers.

However, 62% of girls said they want more encouragement and access to role models from more technical disciplines.

Many believe a lack of accessible role models is a key reason girls do not choose to pursue Stem careers, as they are not aware of the roles available to them, the types of people who take these roles or the path they would need to take to get there.

Girls begin to show an interest in Stem industries, if encouraged, from the age of 11, but their interest drops off from the age of 16 and it can be difficult to encourage them to pursue Stem careers.

Cindy Rose, UK CEO of Microsoft, said this is an indicator that girls should be encouraged into Stem and given access to role models as early as possible to grow their interest in the industry.

“The research reveals that we can’t afford to wait until girls are thinking about university courses to foster their interest in Stem. To stop the drop-off in interest in Stem at 16, we’re working with governments, teachers and non-profits to modernise the curriculum and provide better access to mentors,” said Rose.

The technology industry is often subject to negative stereotyping, and there is a misconception that only socially awkward men can fill technology roles.

Almost a quarter of the girls questioned said they felt examples given of the typical person or role in a Stem career are more geared towards encouraging boys into the industry.

But a small number of girls also admitted peer pressure played a role in their choice not to take part in Stem subject, with 10% saying showing an interest in Stem would “feel like a betrayal”.

Microsoft’s research found six factors that prevent or impact whether girls in the UK choose to pursue Stem:

  1. Access to female role models in Stem careers.
  2. Access to hands-on experience in Stem subjects.
  3. Feeling that men and women are not treated equally in Stem roles.
  4. Having teachers who encourage the pursuit of Stem.
  5. Learning about how Stem subjects can solve real-world problems.
  6. Peer pressure.

Technology teams can have a male-dominated culture, especially where firms have not yet managed to increase the number of women in their teams.

Many girls said the current state of the technology industry is what puts them off Stem careers. Some 70% said they would feel more confident pursuing a Stem career if men and women had equal employment opportunities in these professions.

Globally, girls in the UK are less likely to pursue a career in Stem in comparison to girls in Russia or Ireland.

In the UK, 43% of girls said they would consider a career in Stem, whereas half of those asked in Russia and 54% of girls asked in Ireland said they would consider a Stem career.

Girls in Russia and Finland also said they were not subject to gender stereotyping with regards to Stem, with Russian and Finnish girls claiming Stem subjects are perceived as gender-neutral, while 23% of girls in the UK said Stem is more geared towards boys.

Read more about Stem

  • More assistance should be given to teachers to encourage children into Stem careers, says Ada College head of computer science.
  • Mars, GSK and Deutsche Bank help CA Technologies with its Step into Stem event designed to encourage young people to pursue careers in Stem.

Parents are huge influencers when it comes to the careers their children choose, and some parents are apprehensive of encouraging girls to choose Stem.  

In the UK, 44% of girls said both of their parents talk to them about Stem careers, whereas 62% of girls in Russia said the same.

To help increase the number of accessible technology role models for girls in the UK, Microsoft has joined the Modern Muse programme, launched by Everywoman, which is designed to help girls gain insight into the careers women around them have.

Read more on IT education and training