THE BLOG
13/10/2015 08:26 BST | Updated 12/10/2016 10:12 BST

Bridging the Gap: STEM Subjects Are NOT Just for Boys

Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay via Getty Images

This autumn, a swathe of digital natives took their first step onto the career ladder, joining graduate schemes across the country with innate technical skills and a digital understanding that wouldn't have existed five years ago.

The mass use of digital technologies is having a profound impact on the business and economic environment in which we operate. The technological revolution is happening at such a pace that if we sit still we will undoubtedly get left behind. To give a sense of the scale of this revolution, Boston Consulting Group has calculated that the UK's digital economy has grown by 50 per cent in five years and will contribute 12.4% of GDP in 2016.

So why are businesses across the country still struggling to recruit women into technology roles?

Research we've recently conducted at Accenture revealed that half of 12 year old girls at school perceive STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) as more suited to boys. We need to change that perception so girls see that STEM subjects can offer them fantastic career opportunities and are at the forefront of driving Britain's economic future.

Parents and teachers need to join forces to encourage girls early on to embrace STEM subjects and show them the range of exciting potential careers that could await them.

The 12-year-old girls surveyed told us that parents and teachers are their biggest influencers when it comes to making a decision about subject choices. Yet more than half of parents say they feel ill-informed of the benefits of STEM subjects specifically, and only one in seven say they understand the different career opportunities that exist for their daughters.

No wonder girls are lacking enthusiasm for these particular subjects.

This is not a new problem but as demand grows for these skills, it is critical that we work together as a nation to resolve this issue and help more young girls become excited about STEM. Groups and initiatives like TechFuture Girls, Stemettes, techUK and Girls in Tech are doing a fantastic job at bridging the gender gap and encouraging women to embrace the digital era - but a collaborative effort is needed if we are to make a real difference and change perceptions nationwide.

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. We need to show them that they are wrong, that these role models do exist, and excite them about the wide range of career opportunities available to them in the STEM sector. We need to educate them that STEM is not just about coding or working in a lab; a career in STEM could allow you to make a significant contribution to many of the big challenges facing society today, reducing climate change; curing cancer or creating digital solutions to support the ageing population.

But we must recognise that this is not the job of just one party; businesses, schools, government and parents all need to spread the message that boys and girls are equally capable of excelling in everything from nuclear physics to ballet. Gender stereotyping of our children needs to stop, today.