The Gender Gap in STEM Education

Published 20/02/2023
5 minutes Read

It’s already widely known that females are massively underrepresented in STEM education, but what is being done to change this? Currently females make up 28% of the science, engineering, technology and maths workforce, highlighting that males outnumber females in the STEM industry.

What is STEM Education?

STEM education is all about teaching students science, technology, engineering and maths.

Rather than teaching these subjects separately, STEM uses a combined applied approach to encourage and better equip students to consider careers within STEM.

Why is there a lack of females in STEM Education?

There is a noticeable difference between the amount of females and males in STEM education that decreases continually after GCSE level education. After GCSEs, only 35% of females choose to study STEM subjects, with this decreasing to 25% of females choosing to study them at university.

Students, and people more generally, are often misled into thinking that STEM subjects are ‘meant for boys’ which can therefore be off-putting for girls to apply for or sit in classes where they may be one of a few girls or even the only girl in the class.

How can we change this and encourage more girls to apply for STEM subjects and consider a career in the industry?

Improve job satisfaction

Research shows that 1 in 10 girls want a job that makes a contribution to society. Due to this, more should be done to highlight that studying STEM subjects can lead to a career where girls can meet their ambitions to make a contribution to society. This will help close the gender gap by encouraging more girls to study STEM subjects relating to their aspirations.

Showcase more role models in STEM industries

Showcasing more female role models in STEM industries will help encourage girls to consider STEM subjects and careers as they can be inspired by someone more like them. This could be done by including more female role models in school career days.

Furthermore, universities could have more female lecturers, helping encourage girls to pursue university degrees, by providing a female role model that understands the career path they want to pursue.

What problems do females face in STEM industries?

Over half of females in a male dominated STEM workplace have felt some kind of discrimination while at work.

Furthermore, 1 in 5 women stated that, before the Me Too movement, they felt being female had held them back from succeeding at work and gaining promotions.

Women also face problems such as:

  • Not receiving promotions40% of women have missed out on a promotion that was given to a less qualified male. As a result, women have considered changing employers to attain a promotion.
  • Not receiving a good work life balance – Women understand that keeping a work life balance is hard, but they would like more opportunities to balance working and spending time with their family.
  • Not receiving equal pay – Men and women tend not to receive equal pay in tech. If they were paid equally, STEM education and careers may attract more women.

What can education and not for profit leaders do to close the gender gap?

Education and not for profit leaders can make small changes to the way schools deliver STEM education to females to help close the gender gap.

For example education and not for profit  leaders could:

Generate excitement

Generating excitement around the creative opportunities STEM education can give to females could help encourage them to further study science, technology, engineering and maths.

Excitement can be generated by:

  • Decorating classrooms with posters and displays that show how creativity can be utilised within STEM.
  • Experiment with ways to debunk myths about STEM and highlight the relevance it has to the real world.
  • Share any interesting news, classes, competitions or case studies relating to STEM with students.

Provide hands-on experience

With 47% of women saying they learn best with hands-on experience, it’s important to mix theory with hands-on learning. This allows all types of learners to access teaching in the way that best suits them, helping them thrive in STEM education and making them more likely to study these subjects in further education.

Hands on experience can be provided by:

  • Introducing STEM and computer science at an early age.
  • Offering STEM clubs and activities during and after school, such as coding and science clubs.
  • Offering school trips to STEM related centres and museums.

Encourage a growth mindset

Encouraging a growth mindset among both students and teachers will help to open doors into the STEM industry and encourage teachers to do more to support students going into STEM related subjects.

Encouraging a growth mindset could be done by:

  • Encouraging teachers to support students through all areas of the learning process, including asking questions and failures.
  • Exploring different ways to implement STEM subjects into learning models, for example including computer science in the learning curriculum.
  • Including ‘learn by doing’ apps into classes and homework tasks.
  • Reaching out to other schools that are leading the way in STEM education to ask for advice or collaborate on teaching and holding after school STEM related clubs.

How have female positions in STEM education changed since 2015?

In physical sciences and engineering and tech, the percentage of female graduates has increased since 2015, however there has only been a tiny improvement. Similarly, female graduates in mathematical sciences decreased by 1% in 2018/2019 compared to 2015/16. However, female graduates in computer science dropped between 2016 and 2017, but increased to 16% of graduates in 2018/2019.

While it’s great that we’re seeing an increase in female graduates in STEM related subjects, it’s clear that there’s a lot more educators and not for profit organisations can be doing to help encourage more females to enter STEM related subjects.

How can Millennium Point help close the gender gap in STEM education?

The Millennium Point Charitable Trust has created the STEM roundtable to help bring together STEM industries, primary and secondary education, further education and not-for-profits in STEM sectors.

What’s the purpose of the working group?

  • To provide a platform for support and communication to facilitate the sharing of ideas and cross-collaboration for the development of STEM projects.
  • To shape the future of STEM learning, starting in the West Midlands by making affirmative action that creates positive change in STEM education and industry.
  • To reverse current negative STEM trends by bridging the skills gap and ensuring every child has an opportunity to develop a career in STEM.
  • To increase home grown STEM talent by creating a legacy that will nurture local and national talent that will allow the UK to be a major competitor on the global stage.

Millennium Point’s 2024 Scholarship application is now open. For more information on how to apply or get involved in the Scholarship program please visit www.millenniumpoint.org.uk/scholarship.

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