In the modern day of the developed country, gender imbalances in any context should not exist. But it’s very clear and well documented that they remain prominent in many areas. One of those areas that has long been on the radar, and has recently gained significant coverage, is the issue of girls working in STEM industries.
Olympia Brown, Science Learning Manager at the Royal Institution, recently voiced these concerns in an article in the Huffington Post.
Currently, 13% of all STEM jobs and 6% of specifically engineering jobs are filled by women. Which is a terrible shame for the women with potential in this area, and also for the UK, which is missing out on individuals who could make huge scientific waves if only they considered it as a career. Brown refers to an OECD study that claims more school girls are concerned with approaching scientific or mathematic problems, and are anxious about getting the ‘wrong’ answer.
Brown has therefore created 'ExpeRimental', a project aimed at inspiring parents to study and play with science with their children at home, in the same manner parents often do arts and crafts. Which leads neatly to her next point; parents could have just as big a role to play in girls’ lack of STEM participation by way of cultural and social traditions.
How do you feel about this, as a parent? Do you focus your daughter on scientific areas to the same extent that you would with, say, English or art?
The Stemettes are a startup organisation tackling exactly these preconceptions. They define a ‘Stemette’ as: a female who has the capacity to go in to one or more of the STEM fields.They are active in promoting the industry to girls, their parents, teachers and guardians. They hold exhibitions and panels led by successful female STEM professionals – a solution to the issue that there aren’t enough female role models for girls to look up to.
In addition to these inspiring young women, a Kickstarter campaign called Princess Awesome recently had enormous success with investors. Their idea is to create feminine kids' clothes that don’t have to feature rainbows, frills and princesses. Instead, dresses are splashed robots, dinosaurs and and cars; the type of things that girls continue to be bizarrely excluded from.
It’s all good news, and moving in the right direction. So to meet the efforts of organisations such as ExpeRimental and the STEMettes, parents must also overcome the traditional preconceptions that STEM isn’t for girls.