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September 17, 2015

British girls say STEM subjects are too hard to learn

Six in ten 12-year-old girls in the UK and Ireland say STEM subjects are too hard to learn.

By Joao Lima

Girls aged 12 in the UK and Ireland believe that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects are too difficult to learn.

In a research commissioned by Accenture, 60% of this age and gender group admitted to having difficulties when studying STEM related subjects.

The company said that the survey, which polled more than 4,000 girls, young women, parents and teachers in the two countries, demonstrates clearly that there is a perception that STEM subjects and careers are better suited to male personalities, hobbies and brains.

51% of the teachers and 43% of the parents surveyed believe this perception helps explain the low uptake of STEM subjects by girls. 47% of the young girls included in the research said they believe such subjects are a better match for boys.

Accenture suggested that in order for government and business initiatives to increase the number of women in STEM careers to succeed, "parents and teachers must do more to encourage girls in the early stages of development to embrace STEM subjects".

In the survey, girls ranked parents and teachers as their biggest influencers when making a decision about subject choice. Still, 51% of parents said they feel ill-informed on the benefits of STEM subjects specifically, and only 14% say they understand the different career opportunities that exist for their daughters.

77% of girls said they still believe that the science and technology sector lacks high-profile female role models.

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Emma McGuigan, MD for Accenture Technology UK&I, said: "It’s worrying that girls’ interest in STEM subjects tails off so early in their time at secondary school. With such a small percentage of parents understanding what these subjects can offer their daughters, it is not surprising that girls become disconnected from STEM. "

Tech Partnership’s CEO, Karen Price, added: "It’s important that girls understand that these subjects are as much for them as they are for boys.

"If STEM businesses work together to support teachers and parents to get young girls excited about these subjects from a much younger age, we will be much closer to the goal of making the balance of men versus women in these careers more equal."

The study was commissioned by Accenture and conducted by Loudhouse in April 2015. It included 1,571 girls of secondary school age (11-18) and 2,509 young women (19-23) across the UK and Ireland. Samples of 535 parents and 112 teachers were also taken to determine the influencing factors for girls in their academic subject choices.

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