Across 35 European countries1, fewer than 1 in 5 computer science graduates are women. Interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM subjects) drops off far too early. In fact, the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reveals that boys are far more likely than girls to imagine themselves as ICT professionals, scientists or engineers. This is a major issue for both the current and future jobs market: Europe could face
a shortage of up to 900,000 skilled ICT workers by 2020 according to the European Commission3. If we don’t help more young women to embrace STEM, we’ll never close this widening skills gap. Nor will we ensure students are set up for success in a world where STEM skills are increasingly important.
This is something we’re committed to changing, both internally and in the wider world.
That’s why we commissioned new Europe-focused research into why the region’s young women aren’t studying STEM. This report will answer the important questions of exactly when girls’ interest in STEM subjects begins to decline, and why. It will also make recommendations for policymakers, educators and private sector executives on how to get more young women interested in these elds. After all, when we encourage girls to pursue science and technology we double our potential to solve problems – essential when more and more jobs are being created to address big global challenges.
The research spans 12 European countries: Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, and the UK. The result is what we believe to be the most in-depth European study conducted on this topic to date.
The main findings show:
• There is a narrow, four-year window of opportunity to foster girls’ passion in STEM subjects in Europe
• The country where young women live has a major impact on their attitudes to STEM. Results varied wildly from country to country. In some places, con dence is a major barrier, while in others, peer approval or lack of role models is holding them back most
• There are ve major drivers impacting girls’ interest in STEM subjects. These include encouragement and mentorship; gaining practical experience; and having visible role models
• Girls believe anything is possible, but only if they are treated the same as boys. Young women are con dent that their generation is the rst in which men and women will be truly equal in all areas of society, but acknowledge that men and women are treated differently in STEM jobs – and this perceived inequality is actually putting them off further STEM studies and careers.