Nearly two thirds of 12-year-old girls think that science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects are too difficult to learn, a survey has found.
Consultancy firm Accenture questioned more than 4,000 girls, young women, parents and teachers about their attitudes to STEM subjects and careers, finding a clear perception that STEM subjects and careers are better suited to male personalities, hobbies and brains.
Some 47 per cent of the young girls surveyed said they believe such subjects are a better match for boys and though girls ranked parents and teachers as their biggest influencers when making a decision about subject choice, 51 per cent of parents say they feel ill-informed on the benefits of STEM subjects.
“It’s worrying that girls’ interest in STEM subjects tails off so early in their time at secondary school. With such a small percentage of parents understanding what these subjects can offer their daughters, it is not surprising that girls become disconnected from STEM,” said Emma McGuigan, managing director for Accenture Technology in the UK & Ireland.
“Our research suggests that while getting girls enthused about subjects like technology or engineering must start at home, encouragement needs to continue in early education, such as nursery and primary school, so that girls don’t conclude at a young age that math and science are too difficult.”
Roughly half (51 per cent) of the teachers and 43 per cent of the parents surveyed said they believe this perception helps explain the low uptake of STEM subjects by girls.
The research also found that more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of girls still believe that the science and technology sector lacks high-profile female role models.
Responding to the survey, Naomi Climer, IET President-elect, said: “Engineering is a hugely exciting and diverse career with the opportunity to do something life or world-changing, but the lack of women in the sector is a huge problem, contributing to skills shortages which damage the economy.
“The difficulty in attracting women into engineering is down to a combination of many things, including the image of engineers within the UK, careers advice girls are given in schools and the way that companies with engineering roles advertise their opportunities.
“If we continue to fail to attract women into engineering, the UK will be in a significantly weakened position to find the 1.82 million engineers it is estimated the country will need by 2022. Women are missing out on interesting and rewarding career opportunities and industry is missing out on the innovation that comes with greater diversity in the workforce.”
Research published by the IET in March 2015 as part of its Engineer a Better World campaign revealed that only seven per cent of parents feel that engineering would appeal to their daughters as a career.