Stems of stereotypes

Women in STEM | A-Level results | female coders
As students across the UK anxiously awaited their A-Level results last week, certain subjects receive a ‘fail’ in terms of diversity. It’s probably unsurprising that women remain largely underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) occupations, but it’s important to look where this gap first grew its roots, and what is being done to build bridges.  

Courtney Cowperthwaite, account executive at Stone Junction

Women contribute to almost half of the UK’s workforce, however, a mere 23 per cent make up those who are in STEM roles. Although girls achieved success in A-Level subjects like computing – with 20.1 per cent securing A* or A in 2018 compared to 17.9 per cent of boys – they remained vastly outnumbered; with males making up 88 per cent of course enrolments. So, if females can undoubtedly excel in STEM subjects, why does the gap still exist?

The ‘science’ behind the stereotype

The nursey rhyme tells us that little girls are made of ‘sugar, spice and all things nice’, but does their genetic makeup mean that they are just not cut out for STEM subjects? Biological explanations for the shortage of females in the STEM industry tend to rely on research that indicates that boys excel in spatial awareness tasks, while females are stronger verbally. However, the actual difference between genders is minute and recent A-Level results prove that the link between biological makeups and STEM results is tenuous.

Socially speaking

Going back to the ‘nature and nurture’ debate, it appears that the gender gap doesn’t really start with our genetics. The finger seems to firmly point towards the enduring stereotypes that men are physically more able and women are creative thinkers.

Many people think of professions like engineering as hands on, manually difficult jobs that cater best to the physical strengths of men, whereas women are thought to shine in creative, arts-focused disciplines, which are not thought of as required in STEM roles.

In fact, STEM careers demand creativity, innovation and imagination – the very same qualities that may attract girls to arts-based subjects. Moulds need to be broken on many levels – the perception of STEM careers themselves and the perception of those who can progress in the industry.

Shattering the glass ceiling

Business leaders are crying out for experts in fields such as cyber skills and data analytics. With the tech industry booming, it is more important than ever that we work to smash the misconceptions of STEM professions.

Independent organisations, like WISE Campaign’s People Like Me Programme, are working on innovative new ways to connect employers and schools and to facilitate the recruitment of girls into STEM positions.

CodeFirst:Girls is another brilliant non-profit social enterprise working with companies and young women, with goals to increase the number of females working in the tech industry. As the UK will need another 1 million tech workers by 2020, their delivery of education for women not only bridges the gap of diversity, but will massively aid the negative impact that it has on the country’s economy.

From magnificent multilinguals and brilliant biologists, to tech wizards and PR pros, we’re a pretty diverse bunch here at Stone Junction. For more information about how we can use our expertise to build your next technical PR campaign email us at sayhello@stonejunction.co.uk or call us on +44(0)1785 225416.

Courtney Cowperthwaite

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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