Girls today may be the first generation able to end the hugely uneven mix of boys and girls going into STEM-related careers. All sorts of factors are now in place to allow girls to follow the passions that suit them, not just those that fit with gender stereotypes. However, to really achieve this, we need adults (parents in particular) to avoid sending out the message that some activities and careers are 'not for girls' or 'not for boys'.
From building oil rigs to working on biomechanical implant materials, engineering is a varied, innovative and inspirational global profession that is always evolving. Encouraging girls to actively consider a STEM career is crucial if our prospective designers, engineers, technologists and innovators are to have access to the full range of skills and talents needed to take on the challenges and opportunities of future generations.
ScienceGrrl released a report on the cultural barriers faced by girls and young women pursuing STEM. While it's easy to nod while reading the points raised in it, I'd like to take on a more cheerful perspective on how to solve the underrepresentation of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Here are three advantages STEM-literate women have:
As an arts aficionada taking STEM subjects - in my case mathematics and information engineering, and computer science later this year - I've noticed several beliefs that people who tend to avoid STEM hold. By changing these beliefs, I'm sure more girls will find STEM relevant and worth putting effort into.
Ok, then, so what does an engineer look like? This isn't an existential or hypothetical question for me, I would genuinely like an answer. It is remarkable how often I tell people I am studying to be an engineer and the response is just that - Ceri, you don't look like one. It's frustrating that people have these archaic preconceptions!
With Ada Lovelace Day upon us today (an international celebration of the achievements of women in the STEM sector), what better time to rally together and promote these inspirational figures, especially as 77% of the girls we surveyed felt that the science and technology sector lacks high-profile female role models.
It is striking that despite the significant variance in mathematical ability between within gender, generalised binary rules are often applied when discussing these issues. This phenomenon is not exclusive to gender and skills, but seen consistently in situations where there are different groups, leading to stereotype formation.