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Seven-in-ten girls now interested in STEM career

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But importance of apprenticeships as a viable route into a STEM career still heavily underappreciated. 

One in five female university students didn’t pursue career in STEM because they didn’t know how to get a job in the sector. Over a third of women in STEM jobs have considered leaving the sector. Recent research from Adecco Group UK & Ireland has revealed fresh insight into the difficulties employers, educators and policy-makers face in encouraging girls and women to pursue an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

The Gender Agenda: STEMing the gap’research, commissioned by leading recruitment organisation Adecco Group UK & Ireland, follows recent reports that there are still too few women entering and remaining in engineering, manufacturing and IT despite efforts to improve the gender balance in these fields. 3,000 school children, university students and STEM employees in the UK and Ireland were surveyed. The research builds on Adecco Group’s earlier campaigns; Unlocking Britain’s Potential, which investigated key issues impacting the UK workforce and hindering Britain’s competitiveness, and the Global Talent Competitiveness Index, a ranking of nearly 100 economies based on their ability to attract, develop and retain top talent. The key findings are:

–  Seven in tengirls said they were interested in a career in STEM

–  But nine in ten schoolchildren were unaware that an apprenticeship can lead to a career in STEM

–  Parents play a key role in decision making, with one in three (33 percent) of school girls most likely to turn to their parents for careers information

–  One in five(19 percent) female university students who didn’t pursue a STEM career said they just didn’t know how to get a job in the sector

–  One in three(35 percent) women working in STEM said they had considered leaving the sector, with over half (51 percent) of this group pointing to barriers to career progression

Commenting on the research findings, Greet Brosens, Group Sales Director and Executive Board Member, Adecco Group UK & Ireland, said:“Thousands of women are excelling at their STEM jobs – and loving it. But the gender divide still poses a real threat. Whatever the growth figures, we simply can’t afford to use just half of the nation’s brains. We need girls and women in science, tech, engineering and maths.

“Our research shows that the perception that girls aren’t interested in STEM is a myth. They know it’s a wise career move, but still don’t understand how to make it in the sector. This is largely due to the lack of support and, in some cases, an outright gender bias. As it stands, we are failing girls and women in these fields. The persistent level of inequality in the STEM workplace is also a continuous cause for concern!

“STEM shouldn’t be just a political buzzword. The Government needs to work together with British businesses to create real opportunities for girls in STEM. Equally, parents, educators and employers have to talk more openly about the range of careers out there and the different routes into them, and make sure that girls and women feel supported to stay on this track if it’s something they decide to pursue.”

Steve Scrimshaw, Managing Director Rail Systems UK, Siemens, said:“It’s no secret that the rail industry currently has both a skills gap and a gender imbalance. But, as the Gender Agenda report reveals, there’s a real opportunity to get more women and girls studying STEM subjects and pursuing related careers. That’s why, amongst other initiatives, we have a network of Siemens STEM ambassadors going in to schools to give young people information about the options open to them. We think it’s great that Adecco Group UK & Ireland are doing what they can to encourage more female participation. It’s crucial that when women do pursue jobs in STEM fields, they have the support of their employers. Any bias, be it conscious or unconscious, has to be stamped out.”

Imran Khan, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, said:“The UK will lose out if we only have access to half of the population's enthusiasm and expertise in science. We're going to need more and more people who enjoy science and can apply STEM skills in a range of sectors – so we desperately need more girls studying STEM subjects.We want to create a society where everyone feels able to have their say on science and its direction. As the findings of this research show, girls and women are interested, but more needs to be done to encourage them to pursue that interest, whether it’s at school, university or in the world of work.”

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