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Lack of confidence drives girls’ under-representation in STEM careers: study


A new report released this week, “Girls, STEM and Careers: Decoding Girls’ Futures in an Age of Social Media,” sheds light on some possible reasons why women are underrepresented in STEM fields. A survey completed by more than 10,000 high school girls across the country reveals that while half are considering a career in a math or science field, nearly the same percentage do not believe that they are smart enough to do so.

The survey results were released on Thursday, October 11, 2018, at Intuit Headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., as part of this year’s International Day of the Girl celebration. Developed by the nonprofit organization Ruling Our eXperiences, Inc. (ROX), the survey was provided to 10,678 girls in fifth through 12th grades to get a better understanding of girls’ thoughts, behaviors, attitudes and perceptions on STEM. It was administered by schools throughout the 2016-17 academic year.

The research findings include:

  • Girls’ interest in pursuing a career in math and/or science increases 16 percent from fifth to ninth grade; however, during these years there is also a 15 percent decline in girls’ perceived abilities in math and science. Additionally, overall confidence declines as girls get older.
  • While 73 percent of girls believe they are good at math and/or science, this number declines to less than half for Hispanic girls, and 56 percent of Asian girls. This is in contrast to 77 percent of white/Caucasian girls and 72 percent of black/African American girls who believe that they are good at math and/or science.
  • More than 42 percent of girls believe that there are certain jobs that are better for men than women.
  • One in three girls believe that boys are encouraged more than girls in the areas of math and science.

“The revelations contained in this research study effectively re-frame the conversation and highlight the opportunities ahead as we empower the next generation of women leaders to take their seat at the table. In a world where an understanding of STEM is quickly becoming table stakes, building confidence and capability in girls that their contributions measure up and matter is critical to their individual and our collective success,” said Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit, in a prepared statement.

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