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STEM Classes See Decline in Female Enrollment: Report

First Posted: Feb 16, 2015 04:30 PM EST
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Science, technology, engineering and math fields, also referred to as STEM, have a history of lacking in women. New numbers show the trend isn't changing.

According to the Higher Education Authority and Voxxi's new figures, 10 years ago 47 percent of new entrants into science, math and computing courses in higher education courses were women. In 2013, the percentage fell to 40 percent. In that year, there were 436 female entrants into computer science at university level out of a total of 2, 613 or 16 percent.

Less than 7 percent of technology positions in Europe are filled by women and in the U.S. entrants in computer science classes were continuing to go down.

This was not always the case. Up until the mid-1980s, female students entering computer science courses hit an all-time high. The percentage quickly plummeted.

A recent survey by Accenture commissioned by the Women Invent Tomorrow campaign found the reason behind the continued decline. 

Teen girls see STEM as subjects for boys. This thinking, the survey found, comes from parental influence. Parents of girls, when advising them, do not address STEM careers as a possibility for their daughters. The survey found parents were ill-informed about STEM career paths.

Ann O'Dea, founder of the Women Invent Tomorrow campaign, sees the lack of female role models as the reason behind girls' disinterest in STEM classes.

"Above all there is still an issue with visibility of female role models. We can't keep rolling out the Sheryl Sandbergs and Marissa Mayers. There are countless remarkable female role models out there, but the media tends to use the same names as if there were only a handful," O'Dea said. "If we wish to make these careers appealing to young girls and women, they need to be made aware of the exciting career possibilities, and the remarkable women who have gone before them."

Researchers also consider the way STEM classes are taught disinterest female students. The teaching techniques are often generated toward male students. Researchers have shown problem-based learning is more supportive for female students rather than lecture-based classes. 

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