Enthusiasm for STEM sparks early amongst girls in APAC: Mastercard
By Digital News Asia February 20, 2018
- 66% of female first-jobbers were likely to remain in STEM throughout their careers
- 44% believe that women are less likely to be promoted than men in STEM workplaces
COMMEMORATING International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2018, Mastercard released the findings from the third edition of its STEM research.
The study explores the influences that encourage or dissuade girls and young women from pursuing paths in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
The findings were released in line with Mastercard’s third Girls4Tech programme in Singapore, which was held from Feb 9 to 10, 2018.
The hands-on, inquiry-based programme, organised in partnership with the Singapore Committee for UN Women, aims to reach over 7,000 girls in Singapore through educational activities in digital convergence, coding, engineering, cryptology and urban development in 2018 alone.
The program complements UN Women’s Girls2Pioneers programme, which provides STEM-related field trips and mentoring sessions to female students in Singapore.
Through this event alone, Mastercard and the Singapore Committee for UN Women reached 300 students.
During the two half-day sessions held at Nanyang Girls High School, Mastercard employees guideed participants through an experiential STEM-based curriculum, where they applied their own special skills, as well as math and science concepts they’re learning in school to solve real-life challenges.
Trina Liang-Lin, president, Singapore Committee for UN Women, said, “While we’re seeing a growing number of women in Singapore’s STEM sectors, more can be done to equalise gender representation across its industries. By catalysing girls’ interests in STEM at an early age, we can inspire more of them to pursue this path.
“Programmes like Girls2Pioneers and Girls4Tech show participants how science enables them positively impact the world through their leadership and creativity. We value working with partners like Mastercard as we work together to build a continuous pipeline of female talent in STEM.”
Georgette Tan, senior vice president, communications, Mastercard, said, “By nurturing the next generation of female scientists, technologists, and designers, we can help build more inclusive communities and better, brighter futures. While findings from our latest STEM research are encouraging, more can be done to attract girls and women to this field.
In fact, the study highlights that half of respondents aged 15 to 19 considered studying STEM-related subjects when they were younger, but perceptions of gender bias and subject difficulty discourage them from pursuing this path, despite their interest and ability to do so. The solution to this lies in actively supporting all aspects of a women’s career trajectory, from education to career ascension.”
According to the study, passion and an abundance of opportunities for learning were key factors that spoke to the staying power of STEM careers and fields of study.
In fact, 66% of female first-jobbers were likely to remain in STEM throughout their careers.
Mastercard’s research has also found that enthusiasm for STEM starts early among girls, with 68% of 12 to 14-year-old girls finding the field interesting overall.
In fact, STEM-related jobs are a popular choice amongst this demographic; three out of the fifteen top-ranked careers are Doctor (22%), Teacher (20%) and Engineer (18%).
Yet while many teen girls are interested in pursuing a path in STEM, catalysing and cultivating their passion requires an early start.
The study identified 15 as the critical age when girls decide to pursue STEM or not, and that older girls on a STEM track are more likely to commit to the path.
Although 50% of 15 to 19-year-old girls surveyed considered STEM-related subjects when they were younger, 51% of girls aged 15-16 changed their mind, while only 12% of those aged 17-19 did so.
Despite an overall interest in the subject, perceptions of difficulty are common amongst respondents (12 – 19 years old), colouring their views on STEM-related careers.
While 66% of respondents found such subjects challenging, nearly two in five girls found science lessons dull and irrelevant towards their future pursuits (35%).
Moreover, perceptions of gender bias continue to discourage young women from embarking on a STEM path.
Fifty percent of teenaged girls expressed that girls are less likely to pursue STEM-related jobs because of its strong male presence. This sentiment was echoed by their older peers, who felt that women are generally less interested in STEM than men (42%).
Seeking to change these perceptions, Mastercard has rolled out a series of comprehensive suite of research assets and education outreach initiatives aimed at sparking and sustaining an interest in STEM amongst young girls.
One such programme is Girls4Tech, where employees are engaged as role models and mentors, to showcase Mastercard’s payment technology and demonstrate the value of STEM-related subjects and careers through various fun, discovery-based exercises.
Since its launch in 2014, Girls4Tech has impacted more than 30,000 girls across 17 countries, as part of Mastercard’s global commitment to reach 200,000 girls by 2020.
Mastercard has also partnered with various organizations and universities across Asia Pacific to offer scholarships and internships for young women, including the Mastercard Scholarship for Women at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), and Mastercard MBA Scholarships for Women at Singapore Management University (SMU).
- When asked what would attract young girls to pursue STEM careers, parental encouragement (49%) is paramount.
- However, active academic support and visibility of success are key to sustaining this passion. Scholarships (38%), female STEM role models (36%) and greater support from schools and institutions (29%) are critical motivators.
- Opportunities for commercial exposure is key to encouraging young women’s pursuit of STEM careers. First-jobbers believe that practical career support networking opportunities (45%), internships (40%) and career fairs (35%) would have helped them prepare better for their current role.
- However, gender is still a key factor when choosing to pursue a career in STEM. Amongst first jobbers surveyed, 44% believe that women are less likely to be promoted than men in STEM workplace, while 34% believe that women are less likely to enjoy equal pay as their male colleagues.
- More can be done to attract the next generation of women in STEM. Nearly half of first jobbers (48%) agree that there should be equal opportunities for women to enter such careers, while 44% of STEM first jobbers believe we need to change society’s perception towards women in this field.
The third edition of the Mastercard ‘Girls in Tech’ research was conducted via an online survey with 2,426 girls aged 12-25 years old in six countries (Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore) in Asia Pacific. The interviews were conducted in November and December 2017 with parental consent for minors.
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