As the demand for STEM skills becomes increasingly important for both girls and boys, so too does the demand for STEM role models.

Gender issues in STEM are complex

Over the past decade, international tests in science have shown no difference in performance between girls and boys. The gender gap is also closing for math. For Canadian students, the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report indicated that more girls than boys aspire to STEM careers. However, at the post-secondary level, girls are more likely to choose life sciences over engineering.

With respect to the growing number of information and communications technology (ICT) jobs, the 2015 PISA results showed that Canadian boys are 10 times more likely than girls to aspire toward ICT work (the actual percentage of boys interested in ICT jobs is less than four percent).

The results show that girls continue to underestimate their own abilities in STEM careers traditionally dominated by men.

Achieving gender balance

How do we achieve gender balance and get girls interested in engineering and technology? One answer lies in showcasing more female role models in a variety of STEM careers.

Next to parents and educators, role models and mentors have the most significant influence over youth choices. Role models show youth that rewarding jobs are attainable in all STEM fields.

This is especially important for young girls who may not consider a STEM career because of little female representation.

As a national charitable organization, one of our main goals is to engage youth with STEM and we do this, in part, through inspiring role models. The majority of our more than 4,000 volunteers and staff are women in STEM, covering all disciplines from engineering and robotics to life sciences. We work with industry partners — many of them women — to connect youth to the STEM community through career panels and career profiles. This fall and winter, our Canada 2067 initiative will see a variety of female professionals pitch their industry to secondary students during live-streamed youth events in five locations across the country. These Canada 2067 STEM Talks are aimed at engaging youth and showcasing future work opportunities.

Collective action

As STEM-based skills become essential for work and citizenship demands, it’s critical for industry, non-profits, government, and education sectors to showcase inspiring women in a variety of roles. Both girls and boys benefit from access to female role models.

 

 

For more information about Let’s Talk Science’s free programs that connect youth with industry role models, visit letstalkscience.ca/rolemodels