Accenture Research: Parents are Major Influencers but Struggle to Advise Daughters on Careers in Science and Technology
Parents lacking information and reinforced gender stereotypes are amongst the reasons for the lack of females working in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) sector in Ireland – that’s according to research released by Accenture, Ireland’s leading management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Entitled ‘Powering Economic Growth: Attracting more young women into science and technology,’ the report surveyed 1,000 female students, young women, parents and teachers to understand what influences secondary school girls’ choice of subjects and in particular STEM-related subjects.
Launched by Ciaran Cannon T.D., Minister for Training and Skills, the findings show that although parents, students and teachers are aware of the importance of STEM, established perceptions about the suitability of STEM for girls and difficulty of some such subjects at Leaving Cert level is ultimately inhibiting young women from entering the sector.
The Accenture study found that there is a commonly held view amongst parents, students, and teachers that STEM subjects and careers are more suited to males than females. When asked why females are the minority in these areas, 44% of students said ‘the perception that these subjects are more suited to males than females’.
Mark Ryan, Country Managing Director, Accenture said, “ “The nature of jobs requiring STEM skills is changing so fast that students today are developing skills for roles that may not yet exist. This presents a challenge when young women are choosing Leaving Cert subjects as they and their parents cannot identify a clear career path such as those for more traditional professions. However, by maximising the impact of existing Government and Industry funded programmes to create a more joined up approach between the relevant stakeholders, we can foster an interest and understanding in STEM career opportunities among female students and their parents from an early age. In turn, Ireland can begin to get the STEM talent pipeline flowing, which could power our digital economy.”
Disappointingly, the report also highlights that the programmes currently underway in schools do not appear to be resonating, with 56% of teachers describing the information available on STEM careers as ‘average,’ ‘poor,’ or ‘very poor.’
The study also found a disconnect between STEM job opportunities and future industry needs, and the subjects selected by female secondary students. Thirty-nine percent of the teachers surveyed said they believe that awareness of possible future career opportunities is the most important factor in encouraging female students to choose STEM subjects for the Leaving Certificate. Yet, when asked whether they had attended a talk or information session about STEM, 71 percent of the students answered ‘no.’