A third of students feel underinformed about STEM careers, according to new research carried out by Atomik Research on behalf of Centrica. Nearly half of the 1,063 students between the ages of 14 and 18 could not name a female role model in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics.
Furthermore, nearly a third of male teachers (29%) believe that STEM careers are more suited to boys than girls, compared to 16% of female teachers. 23% of the teachers surveyed do not feel confident or do not know if job opportunities exist for girls going into STEM careers.
Alongside this, research by L’Oréal found that on average, 55% of 16-18 year old students are not studying science. Of those, 40% said it was because they don’t think science would lead to a career they would want to do, and just under a third (29%) lack confidence in their science skills.
Combining these revelations highlights the continued existence of both a skills and gender gap within STEM subjects and careers. The next question is: what is the solution to and how can employers help?
L’Oréal has unveiled a new campaign that aims to encourage female role models to visit local schools and talk to primary-school aged children to help inspire the next generation of scientists. By informing young people about the vast array of opportunities that STEM careers could offer them, it is hoped more students, particularly females, can see their own potential in these industries.
Paul Gilliam, HR Director – UK & Ireland at L’Oréal, highlights how important education on science careers is, alongside supporting women already in STEM industries to ensure they are reaching their full potential and can be guiding lights for young girls.
“It is important that we proactively encourage women who are looking to enter into science professions and support those that are already there,” he says. “We believe fostering female scientists of the future starts much earlier in life, which is why, to mark the tenth anniversary of For Women in Science, we have linked with the Inspiring the Future programme, run by UK charity Education & Employers, to inspire the next generation of scientists by encouraging both boys and girls to take an interest in science at primary school age.
“Companies have a responsibility to give back to the community and we truly believe that by encouraging more scientists into schools and opening children’s eyes to the range of careers that science leads to, we can help make scientific jobs feel both exciting and attainable and ultimately achieve a better gender balance in science.”
Gender has been a hotly debated topic in recent months; but then it has always been. It must continue to be spoken about and acted upon to ensure equal gender representation and pay in all industries.
When it comes to STEM, employers within these industries can help to educate young people to open their eyes to the vast opportunities available to them. Engaging with young people throughout their school life may be a heavy time constraint, but this technique can be incorporated within your school leaver or graduate recruitment process.
School leavers, students and recent graduates care about social responsibility and equality. By showing them you too are invested in this in all levels of your company, from recruitment to the continued nurturing of employee talent, you will attract a diverse range of top youth talent.
For suggestions on how we could work alongside you to create bespoke campaigns that can advertise your job openings, or to raise awareness of opportunities in specific industries such as STEM through events or similar, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.