STEM intervention strategies: Sowing the seeds for more women in STEM

Miranda Ge, Jonathan Li

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review


Context: In a new study released by the Office of the Chief Scientist (2016), only 16% of Australians in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professions are women. A better understanding of the motivations of, influences on, and barriers to young girls as they form STEM career aspirations, and the implementation of such knowledge towards targeted strategies, may improve the global gender disparity in STEM disciplines. A healthy and diverse STEM pipeline could lead to new perspectives on innovation, creativity, leadership and success, ultimately impacting the world's performance and productivity.

Purpose: The purpose of this research is to identify barriers to girls at secondary school entering STEM careers, to propose recommendations for tackling and removing the perceived barriers and to identify methods to tailor existing outreach activities to better attract more female students.

Approach: The opinions of 496 girls aged between 12 and 18 from an independent girls' school were gathered via an online survey. Results were used to inform strategies to improve the gender disparity in STEM disciplines via outreach activities, programs and marketing material.

Results: While gender stereotypes, a lack of female role models and negative imagery associated with STEM are still frequently highlighted in the extensive body of literature as a cause for the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, less than 10% of students in our context supported these claims. The perceived difficulty of STEM subjects and a lack of information surrounding STEM career pathways were identified as the dominant barriers to the uptake of STEM subjects. Furthermore, parents were clearly identified as the key influencers on children's academic and career trajectories.

Conclusions: Tailored workshop activities and outreach materials that clearly highlight stimulating and diverse STEM career opportunities that are available through the pursuit of highly achievable STEM subjects, in addition to accompanying workshop materials designed for family members, could be key to improving the global gender disparity in STEM disciplines. Future studies with students from more diverse types and demographics of schools should be performed to ascertain if these results are anomalous or signal a wider change in student perceptions of STEM from the wider literature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2017)
EditorsNazmul Huda, David Inglis, Nicholas Tse, Graham Town
Place of PublicationSydney NSW Australia
PublisherAustralasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE)
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)9780646980263
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventAAEE - Annual Conference of Australasian Association for Engineering Education 2017: Integrated Engineering - Manly Novotel, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 10 Dec 201713 Dec 2017
Conference number: 28th


ConferenceAAEE - Annual Conference of Australasian Association for Engineering Education 2017
Abbreviated titleAAEE 2017
Internet address

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