The gender stereotypes of parents and teachers play a large role in putting young girls off careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers, a study has found.
The study found 53 per cent of girls in secondary school drop Stem subjects due to pressure from parents. Two thirds of girls surveyed (65 per cent) said their parents and teachers were the main influence over what subjects and career choices they made.
One third of parents and teachers (29 per cent) polled said they view Stem subjects and careers “as more closely fitting boys’ brains, personalities and hobbies”.
When discussing attitudes to science and tech careers, 82 per cent of girls said they wanted a career where they could help people, and did not see how a future in a Stem field could achieve that.
The research found the more extra-curricular Stem events or school day trips girls attended, the more likely they were to take at least two Stem subjects at Leaving Cert level such as science subjects or technical graphics. Out of girls who attended three or more Stem events or trips, 30 per cent chose to do two or more science or technology subjects for their Leaving Cert.
Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the research provided “much-needed insight into the under-representation of girls and women in Stem education and careers”.
He said addressing the lack of women and girls in science, engineering, tech and maths fields was a priority to be addressed.
The research involved 3,000 Irish students, parents and teachers who were questioned earlier this year. The survey was carried out by consulting firm Accenture Ireland and iWish, a Cork-based advocacy group involved in encouraging young girls to enter science and tech fields.
Co-founder of iWish Ruth Buckley said the research “points to the significant role that teachers can play as a gateway to Stem careers”. She said that “giving teachers and girls knowledge, information and access is key, we cannot leave girls’ inclusion to chance, we need to have a consistent and systematic focus on Stem through our education system”.
The report made several recommendations on how to increase the engagement of young girls with Stem careers. These include helping parents educate themselves on the subjects, and providing additional training and information to teachers on Stem careers so they can better inform students about potential opportunities in the field.