Young women far less likely to consider technical careers, research shows

2nd March 2018 at 00:03
Gender stereotypes are still embedded in the careers choices young men and women are likely to consider, says report

More than half of young women feel their career options are limited by their gender, according to a new survey.

The Closing the Gender Gap report, published by WorldSkills UK and the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) today, shows that gendered stereotypes are still embedded in the career choices young women and young men are likely to consider.

The survey of 2,000 young people found that women are far more likely to consider care-related jobs, such as teaching and being a nurse, while young men are more likely to opt for jobs such as being an engineer or an IT professional.

'Wake-up call'

Dr Neil Bentley, chief executive of WorldSkills UK, said the report should act as a “wake-up call”.

He said there was a huge opportunity to change attitudes with the government’s apprenticeships drive, adding: “Without a shadow of a doubt, the expansion of apprenticeships will help with the gender gap.”

Claudia Harris, chief executive of the CEC, said that the findings were surprising and serious, adding: “It shows progress is not inevitable. The gender pay gap can be explained by differences in the types of jobs women do. It’s important to get female role models into schools – you have to reflect the diversity you want to create."

Crucially, according to the new report, young women are also more likely to say that there are jobs it would be harder for them to get because of their gender. “More than half of the young women surveyed, 56 per cent, feel their career options are limited by their gender. This compared to just 37 per cent of young men," it says.

'We don't see enough role models'

It adds that young men are also more likely to consider technical and vocational education than young women – 40 per cent compared with 32 per cent.

Dr Bentley added: “One of the biggest issues is that we don’t see enough role models in apprenticeships. Young people are so receptive to role models. They tend only to be a couple of years older and there’s nothing like hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth.”

College student Betsy Crosbie competed at the WorldSkills final in Abu Dhabi last year, bringing home a coveted Medallion of Excellence and being one of only a few female competitors in the mechanical engineering: computer-aided design (CAD) category.

'All focused on university'

“When I was at school, there was no one who came in to talk about skills. You need to give young people the information about the options. It was all focused on university,” said the New College Lanarkshire student.

“I went back to my old high school and told them about my journey – I think it gave people a feeling that you can do that, too, and end up competing in WorldSkills.”

A government spokesperson said: “We want to raise aspirations so that career choices are free from gender bias. In 2017, we announced £84 million funding in computer science to increased uptake and participation with a particular focus on girls.

“The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy also funds the Stem Ambassador programme – a UK-wide network of over 30,000 volunteers from a wide range of employers – and 42 per cent of their ambassadors are women.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 2 March edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTes magazine is available at all good newsagents

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