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Passion for STEM sparks early for girls in Asia Pacific

13 Feb 2018

Almost 70% of 12 to 14-year-old girls in Asia Pacific (APAC) have an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

That’s according to Mastercard’s recent STEM study which surveyed more than 2,000 girls between the ages of 12-25 in the APAC region. The aim of the study was to explore the influences that encourage or dissuade girls and young women from pursuing education and career paths in STEM.

When 12 to 14-year-old girls were asked what job they wanted in the future, 22% said doctors, 20% said teachers and 18% said engineers.

Mastercard country manager for New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, Ruth Riviere, says, “The results of this latest study are encouraging but reinforce the need to inspire the next generation of female scientists, technologists, and designers who clearly have a passion for these traditionally male-dominated areas.

The study also pinpointed 15 as the critical age when girls decided whether or not to pursue STEM. Although half of 15-19 year olds considered STEM-related subjects when they were young, half changed their minds, and by 17-19 only 12% continued studying STEM subjects.

“The research shows 15 is a critical age for girls to determine whether they follow a STEM path, especially as they select their subjects for NCEA,” adds Riviere.

“This can have a significant impact on their future career, so we need to make sure we do everything to minimise barriers and ensure girls have every opportunity to pursue STEM subjects.”

However, many girls are discouraged from pursuing STEM education and career pathways due to their learned perceptions of gender bias, and subject difficulty, despite their interest and ability in the area.

When the girls were asked what would encourage them to pursue a career in STEM, parental encouragement was considered the most important influence (49%).

Support from schools and institutions (29%), having female STEM role models (36%) and scholarships (38%) are also key motivators.

Riviere concludes, “From this study, it is clear that work still needs to be done.”

“It’s important that we continue to challenge gender biases in STEM, so that more Kiwi girls and women can achieve their STEM potential, and the broader economy can benefit from a wider talent base and greater diversity in the workplace.”

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