Commissioned by The Women’s Foundation and supported through Goldman Sachs Gives, Dr. Dannii Yeung from City University of Hong Kong and Dr. Mario Liong, formerly from Centennial College, conducted a study on factors influencing adolescent girls’ choice of STEM subjects and offers suggestions for greater gender balance in STEM subject enrollments at school and university.
Key findings include:
- Girls’ decision to pursue STEM is significantly influenced by their early experiences with those subjects, and their perception of their own capabilities, interests and career aspirations. These are all heavily shaped by society, family and schools.
- Girls’ exposure to STEM is limited at the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) level, with mathematics being the only STEM-related compulsory subject while physics and other science subjects are electives.
- With the exception of biology, many girls find STEM subjects boring and describe STEM subjects as characterised by dry concepts, mechanical exercises and an emphasis on individual performance as opposed to group projects.
- Girls at girls-only schools are more confident in their abilities and more supported in their pursuit of STEM subjects than those at co-educational institutions. Teachers at girls-only schools are also more committed to increasing students’ confidence and abilities in STEM.
- Many girls limit themselves because of their own gender biases, believing STEM is more suitable for boys. At the same time, many girls feel discouraged from pursuing STEM subjects by their parents - particularly their fathers - and teachers and friends, due to enduring gender stereotypes and a lack of accessible female role models.