The future depends on young girls getting into STEM

Natalia Nicholson explains how we can encourage more young girls to pursue STEM subjects in school and why it will benefit everyone

Every day, we rely on countless inventions and discoveries that have been made possible by scientists and engineers. From the cars we drive to the phones we use, science and technology impact every aspect of our lives. And yet, women have long been underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

In fact, a study from the Higher Education Statistics Agency has shown that girls in higher education in the UK only make up 35% of the STEM population.

I see this is a problem for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it means that we're losing out on half of the population when it comes to developing the next generation of innovators and leaders in STEM. When there are fewer female students studying STEM, it furthers the idea that these subjects are not meant for women, which can discourage girls from pursuing these fields in the future.

Secondly, this imbalance in women's representation in STEM courses in schools not only perpetuates gender disparities in these fields, but also limits the potential of our economy and stifles innovation. A lack of diversity in STEM – and in any field – can lead to groupthink, where everyone is coming from the same perspective and not challenging ideas. This can limit creativity and prevent new solutions from being found.

Why girls and young women?

There's no question that the world of STEM needs more young women who will bring a fresh perspective into the field. Young women are not mired in the same ways of thinking that have been passed down for generations. Instead, they view the world with new eyes and are not afraid to challenge the status quo.

In addition, young women, or women in general, share a unique perspective that can help make technology more human and relevant. Women tend to build technology with a heart to it, combining machine intelligence with emotional intelligence. As a result, technology has become more responsive to human needs and more user-friendly.

This is vital in our increasingly digital world, where technology is becoming ever-more embedded in our everyday lives. By bringing more young women into the world of STEM, we can ensure that technology is developed with people at the centre. And that's something everyone can benefit from.

At Women in Digital Business, we're committed to helping young girls close the gender gap in STEM. Our Tech Upskill Programme for girls aged 15-18 offers a range of topics and activities designed to help girls build confidence and skills in STEM.

The programme covers five topics that will be delivered across five days in the following areas:

  1. Collaboration, communication and how to ideate in the digital age
  2. UX
  3. Cybersecurity
  4. Digital marketing
  5. Building a prototype app

By the end of the programme, girls will have a deeper understanding and appreciation of, and the confidence to pursue, a wide range of exciting STEM careers that are both personally and financially rewarding.

In fact, STEM careers are some of the most in-demand and well-paid occupations out there. One way to get more young girls interested in STEM is to offer classes and programmes that focus on upskilling them in these areas, such as the Women in Digital Business Tech Upskill Programme.

Changing education’s approach to STEM 

It’s time for us to face the facts: if we want more young girls to pursue STEM careers, then we need to change how these disciplines are being taught in primary and secondary schools.

This means investing in educational programmes that show girls how they can use their creativity and imagination in STEM pursuits. With more role models of successful women in STEM professions, and with teaching methods that engage students of all genders, we can make progress towards ensuring that our next generation of leaders is evenly represented across all fields – including those traditionally considered ‘male’ domains.

Encouraging more girls to pursue careers in STEM would also send a powerful message to young girls everywhere: that they are just as capable as boys when it comes to science, technology, maths and engineering. We need more young girls in STEM disciplines not only because it's essential for innovation and progress, but also because it's time for women to take their rightful place in these vital fields.

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