I'm Female and I Love STEM
I was drawn to a recent article which had the headline; 60% of 12-year-old girls think STEM subjects are too hard, according to an Accenture survey.
The article continues to state that 43% of parents and teachers claimed the idea of boys being better at STEM than girls was the reason for the low uptake and 51% of parent’s claim they don’t know enough about what benefits STEM can offer their daughters.
As an industry isn't it our responsibility to show both males & females why a role in technology is important?
My initial reaction – why are we pitching females against males? As an industry, isn’t it our responsibility to show both males and females why a role in technology is important rather than highlight difficulties each sex faces in academia?
I’ll admit, did I know what STEM stood for when I was 12? Would I know what STEM stood for if I wasn’t involved in the industry? No, and in all honesty, is it important?
I’ve worked in the Technology industry for over 15 years and it is dominated by males and we absolutely need to do more to get females into the industry. But by suggesting that girls find STEM too difficult, is this the right way? Surely that will counter the efforts that industry is doing to attract females into STEM roles. Does any 12 year old enjoy or find maths, science and computer classes easy, regardless of their sex or gender?
The SQA attainment statistics from August 2015 show that females have a higher pass rate in Maths and contribute to 51% of the total number of students studying Maths at SCQF 5 (examples at this level include Intermediate 2 and Credit Standard Grade). However, this declines to just 35% of the total students studying Maths at SCQF7 (examples at this level include HNC and Advanced Higher). The figures highlight that although there may be a misconception amongst females that STEM subjects are too difficult, when studied, the success rate is high. What education institutes and industry need to address is the rate of ‘drop out’ – how do we encourage females to continue studying STEM subjects?
The survey claims that 77% of girls say STEM sectors do not have enough women that can be looked up to – is this why females drop out of STEM subjects? To me, it isn’t about an endorsement from a famous face, you only have to Google the Forbes Most Powerful Women in Tech list to find an inspirational female that has changed the technology world we live in. To me we need to look past the STEM label and what connotations may come with it - any Big Bang Theory fans out there?! - it’s about what STEM skills can bring you.
Parents might not think they understand what STEM is or the benefits to their daughters (or sons, for that matter), but you are surrounded by STEM products and services, only they aren't labelled that way. You might be reading this on a tablet or smart phone device – developed by someone who, when they were 12 years-old, decided to study STEM subjects. What about when you buy a product online? Or when you post on Facebook to say you’re going on holiday? Or upload a video to YouTube? Or use Instagram’s photo-alteration tools to ensure you’ve nailed the perfect selfie? All STEM related. STEM is an industry term - it doesn’t define what people in the technology industry do. It’s not all Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths in my day to day role. It’s about team working, problem solving and building cool technology that changes the way things are done and shapes the future for everyone.
Anyone who works in STEM is, in my mind, an inventor.
We’re building a new tomorrow. I can appreciate parents being unsure on the benefits of STEM, no one knows what STEM will look like or, in fact, what results it will produce in the future. I think that is the exciting thing about the Technology industry, it’s changing at such a pace that we’re constantly adapting and learning new things. No one day is the same as the next.
The benefits for anyone looking to join the technology industry is that it’s, simply, booming. It’s an industry that will enable your child to be involved in ground-breaking development and innovation. Successful, influential females are entrenched in the technology industry. But it isn’t about what sex you are, it’s about getting the best of the best to join the industry, it’s about enjoying what you do and choosing a career that allows you to change the world through technology.