Sunday, 8 March 2015

It's a girl thing - not.

Today is international Women's day.

Cue a flurry of articles in newspapers and on twitter about girls and STEM.

Science isn't just for boys - The Independent

Five myths keeping women out of science careers - The Guardian

Want to be a scientist? It's not just for boys - Public health England

And the government has helpfully launched a campaign with the hashtag #notjustforboys

Perhaps it's just me, but this makes me unutterably depressed.  Not just about the lack of gender equality in STEM, but by the deficit model of female participation that all these things promote.

The question seems to be 'Girls aren't doing STEM, what's wrong with girls'.

I think a better question would be 'Girls aren't doing STEM, what's wrong with STEM?'.

And actually, the premise on which both questions are based, is somewhat flawed.

If we look at the number of male and female studying A-levels in 2014 we see that girls do study science and STEM in large numbers - as long as its biology, chemistry, maths or psychology.

And what about undergraduate degrees? There are more women studying medicine and dentisty than men.  Even at university, women are studying STEM.  Unless, of course, its the physics and 'TEM' part of STEM.
DfE, SR 45/2014 Education and Training Statistics for the United Kingdom, 2014, issued 06 November 2014

So the question should not be 'why aren't girls doing STEM?'.  They are.  We should be looking at where some parts of STEM are failing to attract girls.

And a facile hashtag which suggests that there's something wrong with girls, isn't going to help.