‘I don’t think I would be good at it’: Gen Z girls far less likely than boys to feel they belong in STEM


Gen Z boys and girls feel they have similar opportunities to learn about STEM subjects in school, but girls are less inclined to pursue STEM careers due to feeling less supported in this field. Despite comparable access to STEM education, boys are more likely to express interest in STEM topics than girls. A majority of girls feel uninterested in STEM careers because they either don't enjoy the subject or doubt their capabilities, whereas boys exhibit more confidence in pursuing STEM careers. This could be attributed to girls' concerns about potential judgment for venturing into unfamiliar territory, in contrast to the confident approach boys often display. Girls are also more likely to cite time constraints and perceived lack of acceptance in STEM fields as factors deterring them from pursuing a STEM career.

Furthermore, the survey highlighted that girls are less exposed to in-demand STEM skills such as computer programming, coding, electrical circuits, robotics, 3-D design, hydraulics, and rockets. These skills are crucial for emerging jobs in areas like artificial intelligence, semiconductors, and cybersecurity, which are becoming increasingly important for the U.S. economy and national security. Notably, girls surpass boys in learning about environmental sciences, but they lag behind in other key STEM areas.

It is concerning that despite growing efforts to close the gender gap in STEM, the disparity persists among the youngest members of the workforce. The lack of equal access to emerging STEM topics may be contributing to this gender gap. Additionally, the underrepresentation of girls and other marginalized groups in STEM education could be exacerbated by a lack of inclusive learning environments and resources, as well as a dearth of mentors who represent diverse backgrounds.

Teaching STEM topics exclusively as electives, with limited requirements for emerging subjects like computer science and robotics, might be a significant factor contributing to the gender gap in STEM. Schools may also be under-resourced in these emerging STEM topics, leading to a lack of proper support and education for all students, particularly girls and those from underprivileged or minority backgrounds.

To address these issues, organizations like Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and Million Women Mentors play a crucial role in offering STEM education outside the classroom. Girls and young women need to have access to mentors who reflect their backgrounds and have succeeded in STEM careers. Encouraging interest in STEM from a young age is pivotal, as evidenced by the fact that passion and early exposure are significant drivers for pursuing a STEM career.

To close the gender gap in STEM, there is a pressing need for a comprehensive and inclusive STEM education in middle and high school. Waiting until college to address this issue is deemed too late, especially considering the increasing number of openings in emerging technologies and the growing presence of women in higher education and the workforce.  

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