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What influences inequalities in STEM participation?

Most young people find science interesting but their engagement is not equal. Inequalities in STEM participation are shaped by many factors.

In the UK and many Western countries, women and people from lower-income communities, as well as those from some racially minoritised communities, remain persistently under-represented, despite decades of initiatives aimed at widening participation in STEM.

In this video, Louise summarises why STEM participation is such an important topic at a societal and global level. She outlines why unequal participation in STEM is an issue both for schools and for the informal STEM learning sector.

Research shows that most young people find science interesting, have positive views of scientists, and report that their parents value science. But this interest and positive views do not translate into young people seeing science as something that is ‘for me’.

STEM participation is shaped by many factors (explained in more depth in the ASPIRES 2 project report), including:

  • educational factors and practices: schools, teachers and classroom science, educational gatekeeping, and careers education
  • dominant representations of science as ‘masculine’ and ‘clever’
  • capital-related inequalities: science capital, specific inequities and risks, and other capital.

If you’re just getting started with thinking about issues of inequalities, you might find it useful to have a look at the glossary of key terms.


If you work in an informal STEM learning organisation, how would you describe your current visitor/participant profile? Please identify and share in the comments some key characteristics of communities that you already tend to reach well and, if relevant, communities that you are keen to engage with more.

If you don’t work in an informal STEM learning organisation, think about an informal STEM learning setting you visited recently. What seemed to be the visitor/participant profile?

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Equity in Informal STEM Learning: Using the Equity Compass

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