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Girls' take-up of STEM subjects 'held back by stereotypes and perceptions'

08/02/2017 Joanna

Girls are being held back from achieving their potential in science, technology, engineering and mathematics due to problems of perception and negative stereotypes.

This is according to a new survey from Accenture, which questioned 8,500 young people, parents and teachers to shed light on some of the barriers preventing girls from pursuing STEM subjects and careers.

It was revealed that 32 per cent of young people think more boys choose STEM subjects because they lead to more "masculine" careers and jobs, with teachers citing the perception that STEM subjects are for boys as the primary reason that fewer girls take up these subjects at school.

However, these received ideas are not only held by students - indeed, the survey indicated that 57 per cent of teachers and 52 per cent of parents admit to having held subconscious stereotypes about girls and boys in relation to STEM, while 54 per cent of teachers say they have observed girls dropping STEM subjects at school due to pressure from their family.

According to the report, these ways of thinking develop over time. Among students aged seven to 11, 50 per cent of girls described both maths and computer science as fun and enjoyable, but this dropped to 31 per cent and 36 per cent respectively for the 11 to 14 age group.

It was also shown that 36 per cent of students are put off studying STEM subjects because they are unclear about what careers they could lead to, with 43 per cent of teachers agreeing that students lack understanding about STEM career options.

Paul Daugherty, chief technology and innovation officer at Accenture, said: "Educators, parents and business and technology leaders must find creative ways to spark and sustain a passion for STEM for girls from youth to young adulthood.

"We must show them that a STEM education can prepare them to join the future workforce and open doors to exciting careers in nearly all industries."
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