Research at Accenture has revealed that half of 12-year-old school girls perceive STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) as more suited to boys and more than half of parents say they feel ill-informed of the benefits of STEM subjects specifically. In fact, with the UK’s digital economy growing by 50% in five years and contributing 12.4% of GDP in 2016, STEM offers long-term career paths for the next generation and STEM subjects some of the most sought-after for candidates when entering the job market. If parents and teachers are your biggest influencers when it comes to making a decision about subject choices, but only one in seven say they understand the different career opportunities that exist for you, as their daughter, even if you love science how do you keep up your interest, succeed in working in science, or enjoy science as a hobby? Here are a few helpful hints.
Pursue you passions
If you are interested in science in general, or a specific aspect of science, there are plenty of resources online to help you find like-minded people to indulge in your passions with. There are science fairs up and down the country where you can go and hear professionals speak and find out more about your interests, and there are groups you can join, for example Stemettes, and Girls in Tech.
For more information about what is happening near you, please see the Eluceo events page.
Keep your options open
If science is not your main interest, but you do enjoy it, you might want to think about carrying a science subject on, along with your other subjects for A-level. This means that, if you are applying to university or for a job after college, you can show people that you’ve got another string to your bow, and as the sciences and maths are classed as ‘facilitating subjects’ your A-level choice might even help you gain entry to a more competitive university.
If you do choose to go to university, many universities offer joint degrees so you can take a science alongside your chosen subject. Scottish universities offer the ability to study three subjects in first and second year, which is whittled down to one or a joint degree by third year, so once again you can keep your knowledge of science up-to-date.
You never know, you might end up finding you enjoy science more and take that career path, or your knowledge of science and the scientific method may help you out in your career in the long run.
Find your role model
There are women that have defied the story, stretching back from Ada Lovelace to Prof. Michele Dougherty a Professor of Space Science, Prof. Uta Frith known for her research on autism, Prof. Jane Francis recognised for her exploratory research into ancient climates and numerous scienfitic expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic, and Dame Kay Davis Director of the MRC Functional Genomics Unit. Apart from Lovelace, the others are still alive and active today, so if you find someone at the top of their field working in something you are interested in take some time to contact them, e-mail them and ask them for their advice on how to get into the field and what they did to get there.
Build your confidence
Especially as a girl, your teenage years are spend being insecure about looks, what people think of you and whether you are accepted, and because of this you self-esteem and self-confidence takes a knock.
It also means that you might not enjoy activities you did before, joining in with others, whether it’s music, sport or public speaking. But all these activities are the best ways to regain your confidence, and the knock backs you’ll have along the way will make you more hardy and more confident.
However, in the US in 1972 a law (title IX legislation) was passed to make it illegal for schools of spend more on boys’ athletics than on girls’. They found that girls who play team sports are more likely to graduate from college, find a job, and be employed in male-dominated industries. There’s even a direct link between playing sports in high school and earning a bigger salary as an adult, which suggests that learning to own victory and survive defeat in sports is apparently good training for owning triumphs and surviving setbacks at work.
So even if you don't feel like joining in, an actvity, perhaps something like volunteering, will give you the tools to stand up for yourself when it's necessary later in life.
Remember the rules of the workplace
Throughout school and university, girls do better than boys. In 2013, 25% of girls received A* or A grades at GCSE whilst only 18% of boys did, and in 2014 34% of women were allocated university places compared with 26% of men.
This finding can be see across the globe: in a meta-analysis at the University of New Brunswick involving 369 studies of the academic grades of over one million boys and girls from 30 different nations, girls were seen to earn higher grades in every subject, including the science-related fields where boys are thought to surpass them.
It’s thought that girls are more likely to plan ahead, set goals and put effort into achieving their goals, often called “conscientiousness” and boys are at a disadvantage in school when grades depend on good organisational skills alongside demonstrations of acquired knowledge.
However, the work place isn’t designed like school and doesn’t reward you for conscientiousness, which is why men often do better, so when you enter the workplace (hopefully in a science subject!) remember that you have to play by the new set of rules to succeed. One way you could do this is to "self-monitor" your behaviour, meaning you fit into your environment by assessing social situations and adapting your actions accordingly.
Stand up for yourself
Us girls, we’ve never been good at confidence, but now is the time to remember your competence. Whenever you are in a situation you think is above you, remember how you got there and realisitcally see that you are as good as those around you. Don't pass up a challenge, but go for it!