Accenture Finds Girls’ Take-up of STEM Subjects is Held Back by Stereotypes, Negative Perceptions and Poor Understanding of Career Options

LONDON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–New research from Accenture (NYSE: ACN) reveals that young people in the
United Kingdom and Ireland are most likely to associate a career in
science and technology with ‘doing research’ (52 percent) ‘working in a
laboratory’ (47 percent) and ‘wearing a white coat’ (33 percent). The
study found that girls are more likely to make these stereotypical
associations than boys.


The survey results are published as Accenture and Stemettes prepare to
host their annual ‘Girls in STEM’ events across the United Kingdom,
designed to ignite girls’ interest in Science, Technology, Engineering
and Mathematics (STEM) and expose them to the variety of STEM-based
careers available. Over 2,000 girls aged 11-13 are expected to
participate in the events, which will take place in London, Manchester,
Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Accenture’s survey of more than 8,500 young people, parents and teachers
uncovered some of the barriers to girls pursuing STEM subjects and
careers. It found that over a third of young people overall (36 percent)
are put off studying STEM because they are unclear about what careers
these subjects support. More than half of parents (51%) and 43% of
teachers agreed that students lack understanding about career options
related to STEM.

The research also found evidence of gender stereotyping and bias around
STEM subjects. Almost a third (32%) of young people think that more boys
choose STEM subjects than girls because they match ‘male’ careers or
jobs. The perception that STEM subjects are for boys only is the primary
reason that teachers believe few girls take up these subjects at school.
Furthermore, more than half of both parents (52%) and teachers (57%)
admit to having themselves made subconscious stereotypes about girls and
boys in relation to STEM, and over half (54%) of teachers claim to have
seen girls dropping STEM subjects at school due to pressure from parents.

The survey reveals a disparity between girls’ and boys’ perceptions of
STEM subjects, with girls more likely to view them as ‘academic’ and
‘boring’. The findings also point to a significant dip in girls’
enjoyment of traditional STEM subjects such as Mathematics and Computer
Science as they enter secondary school. Among the 7-11 age group, 50% of
girls describe these subjects as fun and enjoyable, but this drops to
31% and 36% respectively in the 11-14 age group.

“Our research reinforces how preconceived notions of what a STEM career
entails may be derailing the interest of young people, especially
girls,” said Paul Daugherty, chief technology & innovation officer,
Accenture. “Educators, parents and business and technology leaders must
find creative ways to spark and sustain a passion for STEM for girls
from youth to young adulthood. We must show them that a STEM education
can prepare them to join the future workforce and open doors to exciting
careers in nearly all industries.”

“Girls’ engagement with STEM is clearly waning as they reach the age
when they begin to consider their subject choices and future careers,”
said Emma McGuigan, senior managing director for Accenture Technology in
the UK & Ireland. “We have to address this by doing more to spark and
retain girls’ interest in STEM at an early age, while expanding
perceptions and demonstrating what a career or a person who works in
STEM looks like beyond the traditional stereotypes. Inspiring more girls
to pursue STEM subjects and careers will not only help us to address the
skills gap in science and technology, it will also help us to create a
more diverse workforce that truly represents the world we live in.”

The UK ‘Girls in STEM’ events hosted by Accenture and Stemettes will
feature a series of inspiring talks and interactive workshops, and will
be mirrored across the globe in Accenture office locations in France,
India and the US. In the UK, hundreds of girls will join the event
attendees from their school classrooms via live video streams using
Periscope.

“The STEM talent pool is an important source of recruitment for
Accenture as we strive to attract those bright, passionate individuals
who can help our clients succeed in the digital economy,” said Olly
Benzecry, chairman and managing director for Accenture in the UK and
Ireland. “We are committed to working with government and the education
sector to boost girls’ interest in science and technology. Our Girls in
STEM events showcase some of the exciting and transformative
applications of STEM, with the aim of encouraging more young people to
pursue the high-skilled jobs of the future.”

“These findings show the scope of work there is still to do,” said
Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO at Stemettes. “Our collaboration with fantastic
companies like Accenture allows us to share the right messages to
positively impact these young women across geographies. We’ll also be
handling the follow-up to ensure these girls reach their potential
despite wider attitudes.”

The UK events will feature speakers including Dr Raeanne Miller, one of
only 78 women globally to be selected for an Antarctica expedition, and
Sheila Kanani, education, outreach & diversity officer at the Royal
Astronomical Society. The girls will also participate in coding sessions
led by Stemettes, using AppShed’s Internet of Things technology to
create apps with the ability to control electronic devices anywhere in
the world. Attendees will also take part in a Hammerhead virtual reality
(VR) workshop where they will hear from some of the creators behind VR
games before getting the opportunity to pitch their own VR ideas to
industry experts. Other sessions cover 3D printing, a cyber security
system building activity and a forensic outreach workshop in which the
girls will explore science and strategies used in crime scene
investigations.

Methodology

Commissioned by Accenture and conducted by Loudhouse, a specialist
research division of the Octopus Group, the online research covered a
total of 8,644 people in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland,
including 2,793 boys and 2,667 girls at Key Stage 2 (7-11), Key Stage 3
(11-14) and Key Stage 4 school age (14-16). The survey also covered 909
young men and 875 young women (17-23), beyond GCSE education. In
addition, samples of 1000 parents and 400 teachers were taken to
determine the influencing factors for boys and girls in their school
subject choices and perceptions of various subjects and careers. The
survey was conducted in December 2016.

About Accenture

Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a
broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital,
technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and
specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business
functions – underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network –
Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help
clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their
stakeholders. With approximately 394,000 people serving clients in more
than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the
world works and lives. Visit us at www.accenture.com.

Contacts

Accenture media relations
Meryl Hanlon, + 44 7760 168 293
meryl.hanlon@accenture.com
or
Accenture
media relations
Ceri Jones, +44 7824 451 404
ceri.l.jones@accenture.com