Singapore - The Persistent Gender Gap in STEM Continues

Latest study by United Women Singapore and Ipsos reveals the perceptions of girls and the barriers they face in choosing STEM pathways and careers.

Singapore, April 27, 2021 - Girls continue to show a preference for non-STEM career pathways when compared to boys. UWS’ recent research on ‘The STEM Gender Gap: Perceptions of girls towards STEM fields and careers' as facilitated by Ipsos clearly shows this trend...

The survey, conducted among 600 students between the ages of 16 and 25 years studying in local secondary and tertiary education institutions, has found that only 41% of females surveyed planned on pursuing a STEM-based career compared to 69% of the males in the survey. With this, there will be 50% more males in STEM based career compared to females.

Among the girls who were not inclined to pursue STEM subjects or majors, 48% said that they found STEM subjects difficult while 39% gave a lack of interest in STEM as the top two reasons for choosing non-STEM pathways. But these girls were interested in STEM in their early years. More than 1 in 2 of those surveyed said they were favourably inclined towards STEM when they were younger, with over 60% of the girls changing their minds about pursuing STEM subjects in their higher studies between the ages of 14 and 16 years.

It is very important to seize this window of opportunity to keep their interest in STEM fields alive and motivate them to consider careers in these high-paying and high growth industries of the future.

Only 41% of girls (compared to 60% of the boys) surveyed said they were very well aware or somewhat aware of STEM related careers. This calls for creating awareness and interest in opportunities in STEM fields, especially the emerging areas like agri-tech, clean energy etc are critical for strengthening the pipeline to employability for girls and young women to future-proof their careers.

Parents play the most important role in the decision-making process involving the students’ higher education and careers, with nearly 3 in 5 girls surveyed ranked parents as their key influencers. The importance of parental support, encouragement and nurturing in motivating young girls to go into STEM fields can’t be overstated.

Additionally, 1 in 3 girls surveyed also indicated that mentors were one of the key influencers in their decisions regarding STEM careers.

Thus, exposing the girls to women role models in STEM industries through formal and informal mentorships, having them experience first hand the real-world applications of STEM through internships/job shadowing might emphasise the ever-growing importance of STEM in Industry 4.0. This is important to ensure that the workforce of tomorrow is more gender balanced and innovation-driven.