Too many British girls aren’t pursuing their passion for science

Posted on 29 Sep 2015 by Jonny Williamson

A third of girls in the UK aged 11 – 16 don’t think they are smart enough to become a scientist, despite it being one of their favourite subjects, according to a new study released today by EDF Energy.

The report coincides with EDF’s new programme – #PrettyCurious, which aims to change teenage girl’s perceptions of science and inspire them to pursue science-based careers.

According to the study, many girls aren’t taking their passion and aptitude for science-based subjects beyond school and don’t see its relevance to their careers, with boys the same age five times more likely to want to pursue a career in engineering (20% verus 4%).

As well as worrying they aren’t smart enough to be a scientist, other barriers for young women are revealed to be:

  • That they are unsure what they can do with a science qualification (17%)
  • They feel they are too creative to go into science (15%)
  • They believe companies who employ scientists would prefer to employ men (13%)

The study reveals young girls also have a lack of visible role models, with less than one in three (29%) knowing a female relative; friend; family friend, or other women that work in a science and engineering-based job.

Within their wider sphere of influence, the girls surveyed primarily named males when asked to name an inspirational scientist, with only Marie Curie (12%) and Rosalind Franklin (1%) featuring in the top ten, after Stephen Hawking (21%) and Albert Einstein (18%).

Biochemist, biologist, TV presenter and #PrettyCurious role model, Liz Bonnin commented: “Both girls and boys enjoy and show great aptitude in STEM subjects at school, but at some point many girls seem to disengage with them.

“There is no area of our lives that isn’t affected by science meaning that there’s a STEM subject and career out there for everyone, whether you’re analytical or more creative.

“It’s important that we support today’s young people, nurturing their curiosity, encouraging them to pursue their passion and find the right fit for them, so that in the future they can embark on fulfilling and exciting careers and help shape the world around them.”

PrettyCurious role models who each have varied and rewarding careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), include:

  • Liz Bonnin: biochemist, wild animal biologist & TV presenter
  • Jenny Griffiths: computer scientist, founder & CEO of fashion app, SNAP Fashion
  • Florence Adepoju: cosmetic scientist and founder of makeup brand, MDMflow
  • EDF Energy’s own female employees including Bethany Thomas, a reactor chemistry engineer

Head of strategic resourcing at EDF Energy, Fiona Jackson noted: “There is a critical under-representation of women in STEM-related careers, yet we know that girls do enjoy science-based subjects at school.

“Young women are struggling to understand how they can apply that passion to their future careers and lack real-life examples of women that work in exciting and stimulating professions.

“Science and engineering is for anyone who is curious about the world around them and how things work and who enjoys working collaboratively and creatively in a team to overcome a challenge.

Jackson added: “Our #PrettyCurious campaign will inspire girls to consider a science-based career and help to improve their career options. It’s part of a long-term commitment from EDF Energy to improve the ratio of women to men in the company as well as inspire 100,000 young people into science.”