How To Empower Girls To Consider STEM Careers

Tech entrepreneur Jo Wimble-Groves explains how girls and young women can be inspired to consider careers in STEM.

Can you remember who inspired you at school? Perhaps a teacher or a fellow student? Now, take a moment to visualise that person and consider what impact that positive role model had on you.? Was there someone in your school, college or university that fuelled your passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM)? 

Women In STEM – General Outlook For Female Graduates

STEM is an important topic because the UK has a widespread lack of qualified technicians and graduates with STEM skills, particularly for businesses that work in engineering, technology, and science. According to STEM Women, since 2015 the number of women in STEM (women graduating in core STEM subjects) has grown from 22,020 to 24,705 in 2019. On the surface this would appear to be a positive increase, however, due to the more rapid growth in the number of men graduating in these subject areas, the percentage of women in STEM has fluctuated from 25%, down to 24%, and finally up to 26% where it has stalled in 2019. This is a disappointment to write considering we have an incredible array of female talent in our country. According to results published in The Guardian, girls outperform boys at every level and every age group, from the early years through to SATs, GCSEs, A-levels, university admissions and degree classifications. It happens not only in the UK but in every developed country, with few exceptions. This is quite an impressive statement; so why aren’t more STEM organisations snapping up more talented female candidates?

Impactful Role Models

Role models can have such a positive impact on change, and this is where role models become increasingly important. The people we see around us, at home, at school and through the media can all play a crucial role in inspiring us from a young age. Stereotypes and biases can shape the opinion on what women in STEM should look like. When I first came into the technology industry, when I sold my first mobile phone at age sixteen, there were no female role models around me. Or none that were visible to me at the time. Could this be an important factor for our girls? A lack of women in STEM means that our young, bright female students are not seeing role models that can inspire them to opt for STEM careers. 

The Gender Gap

The gender gap also seems to be a hot topic when it comes to careers in STEM. I considered if that could be partly what is holding girls back. A survey by UK education provider QA published in 2019 found that more than half of young women would be interested in a career in STEM but 78% were discouraged by gender inequality.  A further study performed in Europe showed that how women are treated in a specific country has a direct correlation with how well girls perform on math tests. Girls from countries like Sweden and Iceland where society treats women more like equals did as well as or even better than boys on math tests. Meanwhile, girls from countries like Turkey where gender discrimination is greater showed worse math tests results than boys. Therefore, a combination of both emphasis on gender equality and encouragement of growth mindset has a direct impact on girls’ achievements in science subjects and future career choices.

Here are 3 ways to inspire more girls to consider a STEM career:

1. Help change stereotypes

Did you know that in several studies when children are asked to draw a mathematician or a scientist, girls were twice as likely to draw men as they were to draw women? Challenge this by talking to kids about amazing women in STEM from over the years. A great start would be to ask them to research the female scientists who have delivered some incredible work finding vaccines capable of ending the global COVID pandemic. 

2. Strength in numbers

Could you, your friends or your colleagues be the role models these young people are looking for? It is our responsibility to inspire, educate and support the next generation, entering the STEM industry for their careers. You can help inspire young people and get them involved with STEM activities at any point in their education, even children as young as five.

3. Share your story

We all have a story to tell but how often do we share it? If you or someone you know can spare thirty minutes to join a school assembly both online and face to face; please do. Tell the students about your career and your journey to getting to where you are now. It could really impact one student, one day. It’s about making whatever time we have available to support students (from the age of seven upwards) to open their minds to the different types of industries available out there. Give a talk, grow girls confidence with mock interviews, mentor young people and your passion for STEM from the boardroom to the classroom. Be the one that makes the difference and be proud of yourself for that. 

Engaging with kids at a young age helps to hold on to their creativity and along with a good education, they might one day be able to be part of creating a better future for us all. In summary, there are young people sitting in every classroom today looking for positive role models to help them on their path. With your support, together we can inspire the next generation to take up careers in STEM to secure our talent now and in the future. So, if you are looking for your next amazing girls and young women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, you really don’t have to look very far. 

You’ll find them in every classroom around the world.

About the author: Jo Wimble-Groves is a successful tech entrepreneur and the co-owner of an award-winning global mobile communications company; she is also a mum and a passionate advocate for women and girls. 


Rise of the Girl: Seven Empowering Conversations to Have with Your Daughter by Jo Wimble-Groves: 

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