Female Interest in STEM Education and Careers Decreasing

A recent survey by Junior Achievement found that 9 percent of girls aged 13 to 17 are interested in a career in science, tech, engineering or math, down from 11 percent according to a similar survey in 2018.

by Ashley Rose, Cleburne Times-Review / June 3, 2019
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(TNS) — Careers in science, technology, engineering and math are being sought by employers now more than ever as technology changes every day.

Local school officials said they are encouraging both boys and girls to seek careers in those fields if they have an interest in it.

A recent survey by Junior Achievement conducted by the research group, Engine, showed that 9 percent of girls between ages 13 to 17 are interested in careers in STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — which was conducted from April 16-21 to about 1,004 teenagers.

This is down from 11 percent from a similar survey in 2018. Teen boys’ interest in STEM careers increased to 27 percent, up from 24 percent in 2018.

Junior Achievement is a nonprofit organization that inspires and prepares young people to succeed in a global economy through volunteer-delivered kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum, according to its website. JA students are introduced to the elements of business start-ups, hands-on budgeting simulations, learn the difference between needs and wants and financial skills.

“The decline of interest in STEM careers is disappointing given how much emphasis is being placed on promoting STEM to girls,” JA Dallas President Jan Murfield said. “One element that may need to be emphasized more is ensuring that STEM professionals are serving as role models and working with girls in educational settings as part of these initiatives.”

A 2009 study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said that young people are interested in STEM at an early age but being to lose interest as they get older due to lack of interest with mentors and role models in STEM fields, according to JA.

Other survey findings include:

• 85 percent of teens say they know what kind of job they want after graduation, down slightly from 88 percent in 2018.

• While girls’ interest in STEM careers like engineering, robotics and computer science declined, their interest in careers in the medical and dental fields increased to 25 percent, up from 19 percent in 2018.

• Half of all teens — 51 percent — expect to work this summer. However, more than two-thirds of 16- and 17-year-olds — 69 percent — expect to have a summer job.

• Top summer jobs include retail (26 percent) and food service (26 percent). These are followed by outdoor work (17 percent) and babysitting/child care (14 percent). Very few (5 percent) anticipate working in an office over the summer.

Cleburne ISD Career & Technical Education Director Mark McClure said the survey’s findings are not surprising to him.

“In Cleburne, we have some great programs in place to mitigate the issues outlined within,” McClure said. “In CISD, we start in fourth- and fifth- grade with ‘STEAM Friday’s’ at every elementary school. This exposes all students to curriculum and careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics areas.”

CISD Science Curriculum Coordinator Katie Cunningham said they have created a STEAM enrichment opportunity for every student, boy or girl, in the fourth- and fifth-grades.

“We are providing an educational approach using Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking,” Cunningham said. “This opportunity results in students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem solving, embrace collaboration and work through the creative process. By exposing our students to STEAM in elementary school, they are able to make more informed choices when it comes to electives in middle school and high school.”

In sixth- through eighth-grades, they provide STEM elective courses like robotics, McClure said.

“In the ninth grade, students can enroll in an engineering program of study,” he said. “The program of study allows a student to participate in an engineering course each year during their ninth- through 12th-grade [high school] experience. They would also have access to out MIT Fab Lab. With this plan, all students experience what STEM is at an early age and can develop an interest in it.”

The reason there is a decline in female interest, he said, is simply the lack of knowledge on what STEM is.

“Also, possibly a ‘stigma’ that it is primarily a male dominated workforce,” he said. “This year, we took a number of engineering students — including females — to Lockheed Martin to tour the facility and learn from the engineers there. It was great to see many females in the workforce there as well. Again, with CISD’s plan, we are meeting this roadblock head on.”

©2019 the Cleburne Times-Review (Cleburne, Texas). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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