A study by UCJC warns that only 4.2% of Spanish teenage girls aspire to work in science

The Chair of Educational Policies at University Camilo José Cela, directed by Francisco López Rupérez, has presented the conclusions of the study led by Isabel García García and Eva Expósito Casas, entitled Science Education in the Spanish Autonomous Regions. Knowledge and skills in light of PISA 2015. The document points out that the general shortage of STEM vocations in Spain is particularly intense in the case of girls: only 16.3% of Spanish adolescents of 15 years of age contemplate dedicating themselves to this area when they are adults and of that percentage, only 4.2 percent corresponds to girl students and 12 percent to boys.

Already immersed in the fourth industrial revolution, the biggest niches of employment and higher wages and productivity are found precisely in the sectors of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Thus, in the US, the rate of creation of STEM jobs at the end of this decade will double that of non-STEM jobs (18% vs 9%). According to the University of Louvain and the University of Utrech, up to 4.4 additional jobs are generated in other areas for each technology job that has been created.

The reasons that, according to the study, explain this gap in Spain have to do with the effects of gender biases of social origin, such as, for example, the transfer of collective expectations and the role of stereotypes in our society and the impact of personal preferences. The report alludes to the Cherian model of 2017 to explain that we live in a male culture in which the feeling of belonging for these options is lower for women than for men; to insufficient previous experience with information technology, engineering and physics; and that girls need more self-confidence than boys to feel that they master science subjects.

In the words of López Rupérez “part of the salary gap is due to the gender gap in STEM vocations. There is also a general lack of STEM vocation in Spain”. The professor states categorically that the educational system in Spain must make an effort so that girls are directed more towards STEM areas. “It would allow, with a criterion of maximum efficiency, to improve the proportion of STEM graduates in Spain and, by reducing this gender gap, we will eventually be able to improve the overall percentage of professionals in sciences with fewer resources”.

Recommendations for attracting girls to science

Among the recommendations of the report was to increase the general number of vocations through attracting more girls to STEM subjects. To reduce the gender gap the study proposes to act in areas such as girls’ self-confidence, the support of their peers and classmates and the increase of parental involvement, especially of mothers, since the study found there was a greater relationship for girls than for boys between each of these three factors and performance in science subjects. In addition, intervention in Compulsory Secondary Education is decisive in this respect, since it is observed that it is a critical stage in which girls begin their distancing from science and mathematics.

Likewise, the report advocates for the promotion of collaborative and project learning methodologies, lab work and also for a substantial improvement in school guidance services.

The research provides a diagnosis by Autonomous Region on the relationship that exists between the academic performance in Sciences and STEM vocations, the performance of the Autonomous Regions in matters of science skills and knowledge, the influence of the socioeconomic and cultural elements and the influence of gender on students’ interest in these subjects.