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girls in STEM

Girls in STEM: Let's see them and recognise their skills

10 February, 2023
All my childhood I heard that "Maths is for boys and literature is for girls.". This had a huge impact on the choices I, my colleagues, and friends made along the way. Later, as a Master's student in Education Science and content creator at Kinderpedia, I revisited the topic of girls' and women's involvement in science, and here's what I learned.

Currently, only 28% of all researchers in the world are women. Since Marie Curie in 1903, only 17 women have won a Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry, or medicine, compared to 572 men.

STEM education is becoming increasingly important. It is an essential part of an interconnected global economy. STEM encompasses a range of disciplines such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Georgette Yakman introduced the concept of STEAM. She believes that there is a connection between science and the arts that corresponds to the global socio-economic system and that it is beneficial to treat them together.

Girls in STEM: What does the research say?

Research shows that women perform 33% better than average when working in some STEM areas and are highly productive.

The gender gap in the study of STEM fields becomes more apparent when students begin to choose majors and make choices about which subjects to study.

For example, a UK study found that at ages 10-11, boys and girls chose STEM fields almost equally, with 75% of boys and 72% of girls reporting that they learned interesting things in science. By the age of 18, this proportion had dropped to 33% for boys and 19% for girls, figures that measure participation in advanced STEM studies. There, boys began to drop out of STEM subjects as they tackled advanced studies, while girls decided to drop out much earlier.

Although globally comparable data on subject choice in secondary education is limited, data from TIMSS - Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study - show that in most countries, the majority of students enrolled in advanced mathematics and physics courses were boys. High proportions of women are enrolled in engineering, manufacturing, and construction in Southeast Asia, while these proportions are lower in sub-Saharan Africa, North America, and Europe.


"The more hands-on experiences a girl receives during her education, the greater her interest in STEM" (Microsoft, 2017).

The role of the family in supporting girls to work in STEM

Some research indicates that girls' career choices are more influenced by their parents' expectations, while boys are more influenced by their interests.
Parents, family, and peer groups play an important role in shaping girls' attitudes toward STEM, encouraging or discouraging them from pursuing STEM-related studies and careers. Parental and family beliefs and expectations about STEM are influenced by educational attainment, socioeconomic status, and social norms in general.

Mothers were found to have significantly more influence on their daughters' decisions to study STEM than on their sons' decisions in several contexts. Peer relationships influence children's beliefs, behaviors, academic performance, and motivation, particularly during adolescence. Students with friends who value science and want to perform in science are more likely to value math and science themselves.

Teacher can influence girls' STEM choice

Research by Microsoft has shown that most girls' opinions about studying STEM can change in just a few years. The tech company asked 11,500 women aged 11 to 30 from 12 European countries about their attitudes to STEM. This unique research showed that:
  • Most girls become interested in STEM at age 11 and a half, but this interest begins to wane by age 15.
  • More than half (57%) of European girls surveyed by Microsoft said that if they had a teacher who encouraged them to pursue a career in STEM, they would be more likely to pursue this career path.
Thus, the role of the teacher is to create the conditions for innovation and creativity, rather than to pass on knowledge, formulas, and theorems. The process can be based on discovery learning.

How to inspire girls to study STEM?

Here are just a few great ways to inspire girls in STEM fields:

Eliminate stereotypes and instill confidence
Creating a gender-neutral learning environment can help with this. A gender-neutral learning environment is not necessarily a gender-free one. Rather, it is an environment where teachers and learners avoid gender stereotypes and aim to ensure that all learners are valued, respected, and treated equally.

Surround girls with others who have STEM experience or provide role models from the history of Science
Research has shown that girls who meet STEM role models report more passion for all STEM subjects (Microsoft, 2018), as well as an increase in self-confidence. Try to ensure gender balance in both historical and contemporary figures. Numerous studies have found that providing positive role models to girls has the potential to reduce stereotype-limited beliefs.
Invite STEM professionals to the school to provide insight into their career paths and their own experiences. When girls make a connection with a STEM role model, the chances are high that their interest will grow.

Cultivate a creative environment
Provides opportunities to practice and foster creativity, and demonstrate understanding, and problems solving, which have been identified as essential skills in STEM performance (Baine, 2009). Girls are motivated when given opportunities to approach projects in their own way, exercising their personal preferences and creativity. Engaging in creative problem-solving also encourages students to accept failure as part of the learning process, developing resilience.

Encourages flexible thinking
Many people, including girls, have the misconception that success in STEM subjects is the result of natural ability and that boys have a more natural ability in these subjects, especially math. Believing that success is due to natural ability is described as having a "rigid mindset," while believing that success is due to effort and persistence is described as having a "flexible mindset," as Dweck states in 1986. Research has shown that boys tend to attribute success to their own efforts and failure to external factors, while girls do the opposite (Dweck, 1986; Murphy, 2000).

Combine technology with passion-based projects
Give girls multiple and sustained opportunities to get involved, especially in technology. Girls' involvement in technology is often more restrictive and less autonomous than boys', and girls often receive less support and encouragement from parents to use computers and technology products (Vekiri, 2013)

STEM careers are often referred to as the jobs of the future, fostering innovation, social well-being, inclusive growth, and sustainable development. UNESCO pays particular attention to this issue through research, policy, and capacity-building activities and as part of its efforts to promote the empowerment of girls and women through education.

Kinderpedia supports children's STEM education and in 2021 joined First7 in organising the webinar 'STEM in Early Education' to explore the latest findings in inquiry learning with international early education expert Pamela Mundy.

Technology has an important role to play in facilitating access to education, including STEM. Kinderpedia allows teachers to engage students in the classroom in collaborative projects. It helps them give quick and personalised feedback. The app also allows families to track their child's progress. When they recognise children's skills and interests early on, parents can guide and support them in their academic choices. This way, they will be less inclined to make decisions based on social and cultural clichés and more on their passions.


Ramona Coleașă graduated in Pedagogy at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences and currently a student in the Master's program Management and Evaluation of Educational Organizations and Programs at the University of Bucharest, is pursuing a career in education, being passionate about learning and research.
She is a content creator at Kinderpedia, and over the years she has distinguished her work through various volunteer activities in the same field.




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