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Girls can change the world, one STEM subject at a time

Women currently make up less than a third of the STEM workforce, and girls are significantly underrepresented in these departments at both Sixth Form and university. So, what can be done to encourage girls to take more STEM subjects at school? Georgina, Student Head of STEM at St Mary’s Calne shares her thoughts on why there are fewer women in these fields, and why we should do all we can to inspire girls to pursue a career in STEM.

Why is gender diversity in STEM so important?

Gender equality within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is key because it gives women equal opportunities, which helps narrow the gender pay gap, enhances women’s economic security, and ensures a diverse and talented STEM workforce.

Unfortunately, there are advancements in science made for, or designed by, men that are not tailored to meet the needs of women. This is because most scientific research does not consider sex as a variable and uses male as the norm. For example, heart disease affects women and men differently. Women often have different symptoms to men and respond differently to medication, although heart disease patients are treated with the same treatments, regardless of their sex. This can cause potential harm and needs women to fix.

The average STEM worker earns two-thirds more than those in other employment fields, according to the Pew Research Center. However, some of the highest-earning STEM occupations, such as computer science and engineering, have the lowest percentages of women workers.

Why are girls so underrepresented in these fields?

This is due to numerous factors. Firstly, the gender stereotype that STEM fields are often viewed as masculine: ‘Teachers and parents often underestimate a girl’s maths abilities starting at an early age.’ (AAUW) Secondly, as there is a lower percentage of women within the field, STEM occupations tend to form a male-dominated culture, making them less supportive to women and less attractive as a field of work for women. Finally, girls have fewer role models and people within STEM industries to look up to and to inspire them. There are limited examples of female scientists, although we do have a few such as Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin, but girls today really need more women to look up to.

Why should schools encourage more girls to go into STEM?

A strong foundation in STEM provides girls with a unique skill set that builds their ability to be creative and global problem solvers. Students here at St Mary’s Calne are taught to question their intellectual curiosity and to think seriously about the implications of the applications of Science.

Through studying STEM, girls gain access to a broader range of careers, learn to think critically about data and information, and are positioned to not only be smart consumers of technological advances but also to be the creators of those advancements.

Education can play a significant role in helping to bridge gender equality gaps, but these benefits can only be achieved if we reimagine and reinvent the STEM experience for girls from the beginning of their education.

What is most enjoyable about studying STEM subjects?

I personally find interesting the problem-solving and deeper understanding of our world that comes from studying STEM subjects. Imagine the number of young girls who can be the next Marie Curie or Rosalind Franklin, inspired to follow in their footsteps!

Written by Georgina (Year 13), Student Head of STEM, St Mary’s Calne

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