24 Mar Gingering girls’ interest in Science and Maths
Mentors, Encouragement, Hands-on Learning, Boost Girls’ Interest in STEM Substantially
By David Nagel 03/13/18
Generally girls lose interest in STEM careers as they get older. But, according to a new study, small changes at school and at home can have a profound impact on how girls perceive STEM careers, how confident they feel in class and how likely they are to pursue STEM academically and into their careers.
The study, “Closing the STEM Gap,” published today by Microsoft, surveyed more than 6,000 girls and young women on their interests and perceptions of science, technology, engineering and math. It found that girls tended to lose interest in STEM as they headed toward adulthood. And, by the time they’d finished high school, their interest had dropped substantially. For example, the report found that interest in computer science among females dropped 27 percentage points between middle school and college. According to the report: “In middle school … 31 percent of girls believe that jobs requiring coding and programming are ‘not for them.’ In high school, that percentage jumps up to 40. By the time they’re in college, 58 percent of girls count themselves out of these jobs.”
But, the study found, countermeasures both large and small can have a profound effect, including:
The presence of role models and mentors;
Exposure to real-world examples of STEM;
Hands-on experience through participation in STEM-related clubs and activities; and
Encouragement from parents and educators.
Simple encouragement has a substantial impact on girls. Among elementary and middle school girls, their likelihood of taking a CS course in high school jumped by 23 percentage points based on encouragement from their father (70 percent likely to take a CS course versus 47 percent for those not encouraged by their fathers); 27 points based on encouragement from the mother (66 percent versus 39 percent); and 26 points based on encouragement from teachers (66 percent versus 40 percent).
Similar gaps were seen in the likelihood of these girls taking technology and engineering classes in high school.
Combined encouragement from a parent and an educator had an even greater effect, with gaps as high as 38 points in likelihood of taking CS and technology classes in high school, 34 points in likelihood of studying computer science in college and 29 points in likelihood of studying technology in college.
Encouragement also had an impact on participation in class in that girls who are encouraged by teachers and parents are substantially less likely to be embarrassed asking questions in STEM classes.