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Why do girls lose interest in STEM?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Grace Dille

The gender disparity in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields has caused researchers to question why most girls and young women do not consider a degree or career in these fields. New research from Microsoft provides some answers and solutions to help close the STEM gap.

In their study, Microsoft surveyed over 6,000 girls and young women from ages 10-30 to examine their attitudes towards STEM, school, and the workforce. They hope the results from their study will help policymakers, educators, parents, and employers to better understand and overcome the challenges girls and young women face when it comes to pursuing studies or careers in STEM.

The main research findings showed that girls and young women have a hard time picturing themselves in STEM roles. Research suggests they need more exposure to STEM jobs, female role models, and career awareness and planning in order to empower them to pursue a career in STEM.

The research also found that girls initially don’t see STEM careers to be creative or have a positive impact on the world. However, even a little exposure to real-world applications of STEM knowledge dramatically changes their outlook.

Another finding showed that girls who participate in STEM clubs and activities outside of school are more likely to say they will pursue STEM subjects later in their education.

According to their research, encouragement from teachers and parents makes an enormous impact in girls’ interest in STEM—especially when it comes from both teachers and parents.

Finally, they found that educators can foster a “growth mindset” among their female students by tapping into their willingness to work hard for results. The research suggests that rewarding the process and effort of learning, rather than exclusively rewarding results, is a powerful way to support girls.

Read the results here from their “Closing the STEM Gap” study, which dives into more detail with real numbers, quotes from girls and young women involved in the study, insightful graphics, and steps to turn this insight into action.

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