Encouraging female students to take STEM subjects at A level

Hi!

I’m Steph and I’m a Sixth Form student who plans to pursue a career in engineering.

 

As the only (out of about 40 students total) female physics or further maths student in my Sixth Form, I am keen to encourage more GCSE students to take science subjects at A level. Speaking to some of them, a lot of them do not believe they are intelligent enough, even the top students in the class.

I am currently volunteering to help out with science lessons once a week but want to do more.


Does anyone have any ideas about how to encourage more students (particularly female students) to take science subjects at A level?

Thanks for any suggestions!
  • Hi everyone,

    What I meant by my question was how can I help make it more welcoming to female students, so they do not discount physics as an option only because it is male dominated.



    I have come to realise that it is exactly these kinds of attitudes (that STEM subjects are male dominated because they are only for men) that make STEM subjects unappealing to girls and women. Of course many girls and women choose not to pursue STEM careers because they do not want to, which is completely valid and these are not the people who I am trying to encourage. 



    I am trying to encourage the girls who are considering STEM subjects but hear people like you telling them that they can pursue STEM careers if they really want to but that they will fail because they are not men, because that is even off-putting to me even though I have never wanted to pursue a career in the arts!



    Thank you very much to the people who have replied with suggestions or who have helped to fight against the misconceptions surrounding gender.


  • Benyamin Davodian,


    The pay gap and lack of enduring careers in the UK is widening for women in STEM career sectors.


    ‘12 per cent of engineers in the UK are women and they earn around 11 per cent less than their male counterparts, on average.’


    ’57 per cent of female engineers drop off the register of professional engineers by the age of 35, compared to just 17 per cent of their male counterparts.’

    https://www.stemwomen.co.uk/blog/2020/02/gender-pay-gap-report-reveals-women-underrepresented-at-high-level-engineering-jobs-in-the-uk
  • Hi,


    Find the female STEM ambassadors and role models in your country or your sector, and get them to provide presentations, blogs and videos, and perhaps offer mentorships to encourage females to take the STEM A levels and show the link between STEM A levels and the careers possible, with or without going through university.


    I have found with experience that males telling females what is good for them never goes well. Get females to tell and encourage females what is exciting about STEM subjects and careers will work far better.
  • Andy "The differences within the sexes are far higher than the differences between the sexes", where on earth did you get that idea from?

    As in the animal kingdom there are clear differences between the sexes both physically and in behaviour, the difference is is that there are no PC animals trying to engineer it to be any other way!


  • Hi Steph,



    As well as an aviation engineer, I am also a STEM Ambassador.  Have you heard of WISE?  They are a fantastic organisation with an aim of:



    Enabling and energising people in business, industry and education to increase the participation, contribution and success of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Working with you we can boost the talent pool from classroom to boardroom and drive economic growth.



    To meet the WISE commitment to engage more girls to consider studies and careers in STEM and reach 200,000 girls in the next 4 years; WISE has created an interactive resource to help girls find rewarding careers in STEM; where girls will be happy and successful.  To find out more, get in touch!



    If you are interested in Science, you could consider contacting BASF in Mansfield.  They have a fantastic set-up to promote science and maybe able to assist.  It maybe prudent to chat with the WISE Team and see if they can help you with contacts and visiting the factory and their science lab.



    Kind Regards,



    John



     


  • Hi all 


    May I please ask you to be mindful that your responses are helpful to the original poster and that they stay on topic and comply with our community etiquette and terms and conditions of use. Another community user has felt it necessary to start a discussion about this topic in the general chat category.

    SRVerwey‍   I hope your experience in this discussion doesn't discourage you from visiting the IET community in future. You may be interested in joining our Women's Network; and I agree with Sue Twelves that the STEM Ambassdor hub is a great place to look for resources and people who can share their experiences in STEM careers with your fellow students. 

    I can definitely second the recommendation to check out WISE, and the Women's Engineering Society also does great work. We like them so much that we share our Stevenage office with them?
  • SRVerwey:

    Hi everyone,

    What I meant by my question was how can I help make it more welcoming to female students, so they do not discount physics as an option only because it is male dominated.



    I have come to realise that it is exactly these kinds of attitudes (that STEM subjects are male dominated because they are only for men) that make STEM subjects unappealing to girls and women. Of course many girls and women choose not to pursue STEM careers because they do not want to, which is completely valid and these are not the people who I am trying to encourage. 



    I am trying to encourage the girls who are considering STEM subjects but hear people like you telling them that they can pursue STEM careers if they really want to but that they will fail because they are not men, because that is even off-putting to me even though I have never wanted to pursue a career in the arts!



    Thank you very much to the people who have replied with suggestions or who have helped to fight against the misconceptions surrounding gender.




    Hi,


    Really good question again. I think the critical point is to make sure that any activities take it for granted that of course anyone who is interested in physics (engineering, technology, chemistry, whatever...) is going to be able to do it. The good news is that, in my experience, the age group (say) 15 to 30 are really good at this.


    (By the way, a bit off topic, but the age group 5 to 11 are BRILLIANT at it. It was huge fun when I used to run primary STEM activities - some kids were into it, some weren't, but what divided them wasn't sex, gender, race, IQ or anything else easily spottable. It just doesn't occur to most of them that they can't do things. Then they go to secondary school and the conditioning really starts...)


    So the key really seems to be having enthusiastic people around - of either sex - who are prepared to take anyone who shows an interest and encourage them. There's an excellent BBC Radio programme, "The Life Scientific", that interviews successful scientists from all sorts of fields, many of whom came from very unlikely backgrounds. The common theme throughout tends to be that they had one teacher, lecturer, or employer who believed in them and encouraged them.


    I'd have thought an excellent thing to do is to look out for inspiring webcasts / vlogs aimed at your age group with the attitude "you could do this too" - maybe someone here could recommend some? And after lockdown go to IET events and if there's an inspiring speaker go up to them and invite them to your school (or by then university / college), asking them specifically to gear their talk to "you can do this".


    I'm going to talk to my team about this as well to try and get some more ideas - we're a 50:50 male / female team working at a rather serious level, two of them (Carolyn and Daniela) featured here: https://www.railengineer.co.uk/2018/12/11/175-years-of-progress/



    I was talking to my youngest sister (who's still rather older than me) about this subject recently, and how it was that my three sisters who were born during the 1940s and 1950s came to be doing a rather extraordinary range of jobs through their careers, very successfully. Our Father, who was born in 1913, was a Chartered Engineer, and the way my sister put it was "it just never occurred to Dad that we wouldn't be interested in things or that we couldn't do things, and so it didn't occur to us."


    My own daughter is here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/zv2skmn She's currently on her way home from spending several weeks in the Antarctic, when she gets back she'll be analysing her samples using computer algorithms she's written. This is an interesting page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_Antarctica - as Jazzy says, until 1987 she wouldn't have been allowed to do it. Things are changing, but it is an interesting case study to see the attitudes that you do need to watch out for, as that article says:



    A letter from BAS personnel sent to a woman who applied in the 1960s read, "Women wouldn't like it in Antarctica as there are no shops and no hairdresser."



    She seemed to survive that pretty well ? (P.S.  In her spare time she fixes her (male) musician friends' instruments and teaches them the difference between Phillips and Pozidrive screwdrivers! Anyone who thinks males naturally understand and appreciate technology should try spending time with musicians - as I have over very many years... Horses for courses, I'm not an excellent musician but pretty good at the technology side. And that's fine.)


    Bottom line to pass on: never let anyone tell you that engineering, physics, tech, or indeed arts, humanities, or social scientists are not for you because you're "an xxx, and xxx's can't do that".


    Good luck, keep at it,


    Andy


  • Rob Eagle:
    Andy "The differences within the sexes are far higher than the differences between the sexes", where on earth did you get that idea from?

    As in the animal kingdom there are clear differences between the sexes both physically and in behaviour, the difference is is that there are no PC animals trying to engineer it to be any other way!


     


    For anyone interested here's a really useful link that gives references to some of the key works in psychological research in this area, including (particularly important) a brief discussion on Simon Baron-Cohen's work.
    https://www.vox.com/2017/8/11/16127992/google-engineer-memo-research-science-women-biology-tech-james-damore

     


  • Hi Steph

    My experience has been that many people of school age respond well to practical experience to show that students can do more than they think they can.

    The suggestion to engage with the local STEM hub is excellent. This is where you can start:
    https://www.stem.org.uk/stem-ambassadors/local-stem-ambassador-hubs

    Depending on the type of engineering, activities can be found. For the computer/electronics/... community it is possible to buy for a relatively modest amount easy to use programming boards such as Raspberry Pi or Arduino. They can quickly be made to do something useful (not just turning lights on and off).


    The IET also has excellent resources for secondary schools. https://education.theiet.org/secondary/

    These are not just for teachers to use. Pupils can also use some of them independently.


    Certainly some kind of engineering club helps. Your local STEM team will help to think about that.

    Finally, think about hobbies, what the interests are. If there are musicians in your group, you can but musical instrument kits, which may or may not be thought of as engineering, but then modifying, improving and adapting stretches the engineering mind.


    Engineers are problem solvers, so finding a problem to solve is more inspiring that working in the abstract.


    I hope some of this helps


    Peter M