Initiative aims to tackle fall in girls taking up STEM subjects

DataIQ News

A new digital platform which aims to make it easier for companies to deliver training to teachers in local schools and provide role models and clearer STEM career paths for teenage girls is launching this week, with backing from CA Technologies and industry body TechUK.

The scheme is an extension of the People Like Me initiative, run by community interest company WISE, which provides business to business services to employers, educators and training providers. It encourages employers to raise aspiration for careers advice to girls, in schools or on their premises, by professionals in STEM occupations who can challenge gender stereotypes about these careers.

The move follows last week's report from the University of Roehampton which revealed a drop in students taking computer related subjects.

Now WISE is calling for more businesses to help it achieve its target of reaching 200,000 girls by 2020. The initiative aims to help girls understand the breadth of careers open to them in science, engineering, technology and maths, by introducing them to role models who are working in these fields.

Since its launch in 2015, People Like Me's resource has been delivered to over 6,500 girls around the UK by a range of partners. The new training platform will make it easier for businesses to subscribe and start delivering sessions to girls in local schools.

Evaluation by the Open University, following a People Like Me session, showed that 57% of girls reported that they were now more interested in studying science and maths at school; 96% of mothers stated they would be really pleased to support their daughter if she wanted a STEM career; and the percentage who were not interested at all decreased from 10% to 4%.

WISE chief executive Helen Wollaston said: "This initiative has been tremendously successful in gaining the interest of both schools, companies and parents. It's clear that delivering interesting and thought-provoking career focused workshops to girls has resulted in an impact on the ambitions and interest in STEM among those who participated."

Girls remain under-represented across core science, technology, engineering and maths subjects. The University of Roehampton study revealed that 30,000 fewer girls are studying key stage four level computing subjects compared to when the computing curriculum was introduced in the UK in 2014.

Wollaston continued: "This is yet more evidence clearly demonstrates the need for us to come together and take action to reverse the situation. Failing to recruit girls into these subjects is not only limiting for the girls, as they miss out on great careers in exciting areas, but also represents a real threat to the UK economy. We want businesses to help us deliver the People Like Me resources which show girls that choosing computing, maths and physics will open doors to the jobs of the future."

CA Technologies co-founded the initiative and vice-president of communications Sarah Atkinson said: "Having run many People Like Me sessions, we know the unique aspect is that girls, teachers and their parents are exposed to our in-house teams who can share their experience of what it's like to work in these incredibly important roles, helping girls to identify with them and be inspired to achieve it for themselves."

Jacqueline de Rojas, president of TechUK, which also supports the scheme, added: "People Like Me is going from strength to strength in changing attitudes as the research shows. Many ask what they can do to make a difference, and this represents a practical way for businesses to get involved: A way to offer valuable insights into STEM careers and inspire the next generation of their potential employees. This is crucial, not just for the individuals involved, but for the future of UK innovation."