New Microsoft research points to the declining interest of girls in STEM, ways to close the gender gap

Arif Bacchus

Microsoft today released new data uncovering the gender barriers facing girls who are interested in the STEM fields. The company’s research suggests five ways to generate more interest in STEM, but also finds society is not showing girls how STEM careers can change the world.

This study was conducted by Microsoft in partnership with KRC Research. The survey included more than 6,000 girls and women between the ages of 10-30 across the US and was fielded online between January 31st and February 7th, 2018.

According to the results, only 36% of girls know a woman in the STEM field. To resolve this problem, Microsoft believes society needs to provide more role models and generate more excitement for the field. The company also believes in encouraging a growth mindset that can help battle gender stereotypes, and provide more hands-on experience in the STEM fields.

Results from the study also showed that 72% of girls want a job that “helps save the world.” Unfortunately, it also revealed only 3 in 5 (60%) girls understand how STEM subjects are relevant to their lives and the types of jobs and things they could do with STEM knowledge. And when it comes to hands-on, only 31% of girls participate in extracurricular STEM activities. Other key results from the study are listed below and detailed in the infographic.

  • Girls who are encouraged by a parent are 81% more likely to say they’ll study Computer Science in high school
  • Girls are more than 2X as likely to say they’ll study Computer Science in high school and 3X as likely to study Computer Science in college when both a teacher and parent support them.
  • Although 50% of girls view themselves as one of the hardest workers in their STEM classes, only 37% of girls view themselves as one of the smartest students in their STEM classes – showing that girls often believe they can work hard, but aren’t as smart as boys.
  • 32% of middle school girls and 35% of high school girls don’t feel supported by teachers and classmates.
  • 27% of middle school girls and 21% high school girls feel embarrassed to ask questions showing students need more supportive and encouraging environments.

This issue is important for Microsoft’s Dona Sarkar, who is the Principal Program Manager and Head of the Windows Insider Program. She noted her father was the person who encouraged her to pursue STEM, and even when things got hard, he refused to let her give up. “I believe that STEM are the MOST creative professions on earth, absolutely boundary-less and it’s vital that we have people of ALL different backgrounds participating in creating products for all 7.5 billion people on earth, and that includes the 51% of people who are female,” said Sarkar. You can learn more about the STEM gap by visiting this Microsoft website.