STEM gender inequality must be fought at primary school, says study

by L&D16 Nov 2016
A new report from the Office of the Chief Scientist has indicated that measures to overcome barriers to women succeeding in science, maths, engineering and technology (STEM) must begin as early as primary school.
The study, titled Busting myths about women in STEM, assessed data and research and discovered that the 'attrition' of females studying in the aforementioned subject areas begins in primary school and continues throughout their journey through education and persists into the workplace. From an early age, women are believed to face obstacles such as gender bias, a lack of role models and an inability to assess their competence in the field.
"The key finding is we are losing female talent right across the STEM pipeline despite the fact there is no innate difference in ability," said report co-author Roslyn Prinsley.
"The first way to fix this is to eliminate bias and stereotyping – that includes exposing girls and boys to female role models at a younger age."
"You're not only setting the role models for the girls, you're setting it for boys."

Prinsley referred to telling research from overseas that found that when asked to draw a scientist, most boys and girls drew a figure of a man.
Girls are significantly underrepresented in the advanced STEM subjects at high school, while at university, females made up just 13 per cent of completing graduates in information technology in 2015.
Referring specifically to mathematics, the paper stated, "To progress, we need to adopt education practices that encourage girls to feel more comfortable and confident engaging with mathematics.
"Encouraging and supporting teachers to focus on the application of mathematics principles to real-world problems will encourage girls’ engagement in mathematics, and also their ability to use mathematics to solve problems."
The report also emphasised the importance of an even gender balance in the STEM fields to the nation's economic wellbeing.
“Recruiting and retaining a diverse set of minds and approaches is vital to harnessing the nation’s intellectual capital for innovation and competitiveness.”