Microsoft Study Sheds Light on the Lack of Females in STEM Careers

My friend Sally wants to be an engineer, and I’ll think she’ll be good at it–her Lego rocket ships are always cooler than mine. Girls like Sally are becoming more common in STEM fields, but there’s still a large discrepancy between young men and women in STEM careers and education. STEM fields are some of the fastest growing in America, but men consistently make up a greater portion of the STEM labor force. When considering why young women are less likely to pursue a STEM career or education, a study by Microsoft may shed some light.

Microsoft’s research had five primary findings, the first three of which are:

1. “Girls and young women have a hard time picturing themselves in STEM roles. They need more exposure to STEM jobs, female role models, and career awareness and planning.”

2. “Girls don’t initially see the potential for careers in STEM to be creative or have a positive impact on the world. But even a little exposure to real-world applications of STEM knowledge dramatically changes their outlook.”

3. “Girls who participate in STEM clubs and activities outside of school are more likely to say they will pursue STEM subjects later in their education. The kinds of experiments and experiences girls are exposed to in these activities can provide insights for how to enhance STEM instruction in the classroom.”

These findings show why, in the attempt to prepare young women for careers in STEM, innovative schools play an essential role. Interactive and STEM focused education models–which are commonly featured in charter schools that have the freedom to establish such a focus–allow young women to explore and engage in real world STEM applications and activities. Additionally, they foster a community in which young women are exposed to female peers and teachers to model themselves after as young professionals. Just as with the no-excuse charter schools featured in the preceding post, an environment that exposes students to the real world and has peers that share a common goal may inspire a vision of success in its students.