The second diversity consideration we will look at is gender, specifically the issue that women are underrepresented in STEM fields. For example, in 2015 WISE found that of 14,000 engineering apprentices, only 450 were girls.
In addition, in England and Wales, physics is the third most popular subject to study at A level (16-18 years) for boys but only the nineteenth most popular for girls.
Shortage of females entering STEM careers
Failure to recruit girls into STEM jobs is not only limiting for girls (as they miss out on great careers in exciting sectors), but also represents a real threat to the UK economy. WISE has developed an approach which volunteers can use in describing careers in a way which appeals to girls. The People Like Me campaign aims to show girls people with similar personalities and skills are successfully working in STEM industries. Their new resource pack for schools provides further suggestions for activities to help girls study and find careers in STEM.
Gender and education
The Girls’ Day Schools Trust conducted a review of classroom pedagogy and concluded that, over time, teachers have observed what creates a positive learning environment for girls and adapted their teaching styles accordingly.
Here are some of the recommendations for practice:
- A high level of involvement and interactivity, a focus on talk, and a willingness of the teacher to create a collaborative learning environment, listening carefully to pupils’ questions and difficulties.
- The creation of a sense of confidence and security for the learners, so that girls are willing to learn from each other, to take risks and explore, testing their powers of reasoning against and with other girls.
- The development of a collaborative partnership between learners and teacher, fostering independent learning but within a secure and challenging environment.
- An awareness that however confident girls appear, teachers need to take time and space to reassure, to reiterate, to clarify, even when girls seem less confident in their own abilities than they ought to be.
The review emphasises that girls and boys do not have different ways of learning, and that generalising that all girls learn in a particular way is equally limiting. Drawing upon OECD evidence, the review argues that attitudes and confidence in learning are the strongest factors that influence girls’ academic performance, not innate ability.
In the next step, you’ll hear the approach adopted by a STEM Ambassador when volunteering to be inclusive to both boys and girls.