New research commissioned by Microsoft’s flagship store in Sydney has found that despite a rise in girls interested in working in STEM, very few are entering the related industries.
Of the participants who said that they wouldn’t explore a role in technology or science, 30% attributed this to the fact that they don’t know enough about the jobs they could do.
Furthermore, while 95% of girls surveyed said it is important to have female role models in STEM, only 18% could name a female STEM role model, and none could name a modern-day figure, with Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, and Katherine Johnson topping the list.
This perceived lack of opportunity and access has prompted Microsoft Store to partner with Tap Tap Comics to offer fun, interactive coding and animation workshops for young females, creating a chance to learn more about STEM and develop a passion for technology in a supportive environment.
Jessica Erhart, Community Development Specialist at the flagship Microsoft Store in Sydney said research shows that 43% of those who would consider a career in STEM industries have educators as role models, showing the vital role that educational professionals play in encouraging young girls to consider a career in these industries.
“Principals and teachers have an opportunity to highlight to young girls the benefits of a career in STEM, showing them that it’s a fulfilling and exciting career path,” Erhart told The Educator.
“In particular, ensuring that there is a solid representation of women from STEM industries at any internal learning or career events, so that these young women come into contact with female role models and are made aware of the varied roles within these industries, could make a huge difference.”
Erhart said the team at the flagship Microsoft Store Sydney are “committed to providing free STEM workshops to both boys and girls in an open, supportive and inclusive environment in which to explore and learn”.
“This means that the workshops are available to anyone, completely free of charge. The sessions are focused on empowering participants by providing useful skills to be used throughout their education and into their career,” Erhart said.
“The program of STEM workshops available at flagship Microsoft Store Sydney range from introductory to advanced; teaching skills like coding, animation, as well as building robots and drawing in 3D.”
Female maths participation in decline
Last week, the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute’s (AMSI) latest Year 12 Mathematics Participation Report Card revealed that female participation in maths is in decline.
Released to coincide with today’s AMSI Choose Maths International Women’s Day last Friday, March 8, Careers event in Brisbane, new AMSI figures reveal only 6.9% of Year 12 girls took Higher (advanced) maths in 2017 compared to 12.2% of boys.
By comparison in 2008, 7.3% of Year 12 girls and 13.8% of boys took Higher (advanced) mathematics. The continuation of a 20-year decline, this deepening mathematics deficit threatens capacity at a time when industry demand for these skills is soaring.
AMSI Director, Professor Tim Brown, said the figures were of significant concern as students shut themselves out of future job opportunities.
“Mathematics is the doorway to a multitude of exciting pathways,” Professor Brown said.
“With most students expected to change careers throughout their lives, it is the swiss army knife of skills providing the agility and flexibility to adapt to new and emerging opportunities.”