Thursday 20 October 2016

48pc of girls still think jobs in technology and science are only for men

Published 18/06/2015 | 02:30

Almost half of women and girls believe science subjects lead to ‘male’ jobs
Almost half of women and girls believe science subjects lead to ‘male’ jobs

Too many girls still think that jobs in science, technology, engineering and maths-related (STEM) areas are only for boys, according to a new report.

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Although girls understand the opportunities available in these sectors, many are switched off by negative perceptions and gender stereotyping.

As many as eight in 10 girls and young women believe that studying STEM subjects opens a lot of career doors, but almost half (48pc) believe that the subjects match "male" jobs.

The research, conducted by management consultant and technology services company Accenture surveyed more than 600 girls, young women, parents and teachers to understand what influences female choice of STEM-related subjects and careers.

The findings confirmed the strong role of parents in influencing career aspirations of girls and women, although it emerged that they struggle to make informed decisions.

In fact, six out of seven parents say they feel ill-informed on the different career opportunities which exist for their daughters, even though they are most likely to influence their daughters' decision in this regard.

The report also underlines the power of teachers to steer pupils' future study and career choices - they are the second most influential force after parents - but, perhaps surprisingly, three-quarters of teachers surveyed do not recognise that.

It is a follow-up to a report published two years ago, and has found no change in attitudes of parents or teachers since then. Paula Neary, client director of Accenture Ireland, said it highlighted the challenge that existed in trying to equip them with the knowledge to inform young girls.

Ms Neary said there are barriers to the uptake of STEM by girls and young women which persist.

"Many of these are based on unfounded perceptions and stereotypes which we need to tackle so that females aren't putting up unnecessary barriers to exciting career prospects.

"We are also seeing a theme emerging which we refer to as 'influence ambiguity' whereby teachers are not considering themselves as key influencers in female career aspirations, while parents on the other hand, acknowledge the role they play but continue to struggle to make informed decisions or give guidance to their daughters."

She said Ireland continued to position itself as the epicentre of the world's digital economy and there was a need to future-proof the talent pipeline so that half the population are not excluded from the opportunities that emerge in the future.

The report makes several recommendations on ways to encourage more young women to have an interest in and to select STEM-related subjects, including putting computer science on the curriculum for primary schools.

It also recommends that industry works more closely with teachers and with national parents' associations to develop ways to give parents better access to information on STEM.

Irish Independent

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