Recently an event happened at my school that has permanently weaved itself into my thoughts, making me question whether gender gaps in all areas are fuelled by the stigma of gender stereotypes we experience from a young age and while still in education, and if these stereotypes actually have a negative contribution to the rate of development all around the world.
Is there a gender imbalance in certain subject areas in schools?
A couple of weeks ago, I was impatiently sitting in the normally-languorous ALP’s meetings (the Able Learners’ Programme, which is basically a dressed-up name for my school’s club for geeks), when the teacher leading it suddenly began the discussion on this week’s topic and my interest instantly piqued, making my head jolt upwards in full enthusiasm. Instead of the usual crosswords or TED Talks, she asked the group whether we thought there was too much negative attention on the gender imbalance in certain school subjects, and whether we actually thought this was important.
The ensuing debate shocked me. There was an almost unanimous opinion from both genders that there is no imbalance. As a Girl Geek myself I obviously disagreed with this point of view, but I decided to watch the debate from the sidelines due to my extreme interest for why others thought this way – especially my fellow female students.
However the responses given in reply to the teacher’s request to us for an extended answer certainly didn’t cause me to have an epiphany: apparently, as long as the student is devoted to their studies and work hard, it doesn’t make a difference whether they are male or female.
Low levels of girls studying STEM subjects
The teacher continued to tell us about her knowledge of the gender imbalance within our school. In recent years, there have been very little or even no girls studying Physics and Computer Science at ‘A’ Level (in fact just 10% of Computing Science students are girls nationally). However, there are also very similar but less extreme cases on the other end of the spectrum, with few boys choosing to take creative subjects, such as Art at ‘A’ Level. Why is this then? Well it can be partly attributed to those gender stereotypes we are exposed to from a young age.
I was actually already aware of how worryingly low these figures can be as in my own GCSE Computing class, out of about twenty students, only four of us are girls. Instead of letting this negatively affect our performance my female friends and I view the experience as a great opportunity to prove just how false the stereotype of males being better at coding is, which may be helped by continually dropping Ada Lovelace’s name whenever we can!
Diversity is so important
So, after carefully filing through and reconsidering all my jumbled thoughts on this matter – mostly while I’ve been writing this post – I think I am finally able to voice my extremely passionate opinion in the best way possible:
I think it is extremely important to have a diverse range of people – of not just different genders, but also cultural, political and religious beliefs – in every field, in order to have a diverse range of thinking, as it will cause rapid growth and development and produce better solutions.
I’m not saying that all women have the same stereotypical gentle and caring approach to problems, but I think having both genders equally integrated in work forces will massively increase creativity and alternative thinking.
The education system must do more to encourage girls to study STEM subjects…
This will never become a reality if the education system continues to be ignorant to the fact that they often perpetuate stereotypes, and I firmly believe that there is not enough effort being spent encouraging girls to pursue a career in STEM. None of this would be the case in the first place if students weren’t even introduced to these much outdated stereotypes from an early age, which are constantly endorsed by society.
Which is why I believe that programmes such as those offered by Liverpool Girl Geeks are hugely important.
Written by Jess Ingrey, teen blogger for LGG