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What Drives Girls’ Underrepresentation in STEM?

Thursday, November 1, 2018

In the United States, only 27 percent of all students taking the AP computer science exam are female and just 18 percent of college computer science degrees go to women.

A new report titled Girls, STEM and Careers: Decoding Girls’ Futures in an Age of Social Media shows that what drives girls’ lack of representation in these fields is their waning confidence in science, technology, engineering and math as they get older. The report is based on a survey of more than 10,000 girls in the United States conducted by Ohio-based nonprofit Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX).

The report reveals a deeper understanding of behaviors, thoughts and perceptions of a national sample of girls in grades 5-12. Findings include these startling insights:

  • While girls’ interest in pursuing a career in math and/or science increases 16% from fifth to ninth grade, there’s a 15% decline in their perceived abilities in these subjects.
  • One in three girls believes that boys are encouraged more than girls in the areas of math and science.
  • 73% of girls believe they are good at math and/or science, but among Hispanic girls that number declines to less than half, and for Asian girls to only 56%.

The mission of ROX is to create generations of confident girls who can control their own relationships, experiences and decisions. In an article in the Cincinnati Business Courier, Dr. Lisa Hinkelman, ROX Founder and Executive Director and principal researcher of The Girls’ Index, said, “When fifty percent of high school girls report that they are considering a career in a math and/or science field, we celebrate this as a sign that the national efforts to increase girls’ interest in the STEM fields is having a positive impact. However, when nearly the same percentage of girls do not believe they are smart enough for their dream job, we recognize that we need to augment our efforts to support girls personally and academically."

Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit, chimed in on the report findings during an International Day of the Girl celebration at the company’s Mountain View, California, offices this year, saying, “The revelations contained in this research study effectively reframe the conversation and highlight the opportunities ahead as we empower the next generation of women leaders to take their seat at the table. In a world where an understanding of STEM is quickly becoming table stakes, building confidence and capability in girls that their contributions measure up and matter is critical to their individual and our collective success. At Intuit, we have benefited greatly from talented women leading our company at every level, from the board room to our front lines, and we are champions of the important work that Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX) is driving to increase the pipeline of interested and capable girls in pursuit of their dreams.”

The full Girls, STEM and Careers impact report is available here.

Author: Lynda Bradley

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