'Unconscious bias' needs tackled to get more girls studying STEM subjects

Talat Yaqoob, director of Equate Scotland, says systemic change is needed to ensure more young girls go into STEM careers.
Talat Yaqoob, director of Equate Scotland, says systemic change is needed to ensure more young girls go into STEM careers.
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Systemic change is needed if girls are not to be locked out of the jobs of the future, it was claimed today, as a Holyrood committee urged the Scottish Government to address the disadvantages which prevent young people from fully participating in STEM subjects.

"Unconcious bias", resource issues, deprivation and isolation all need to be resolved to improve young people's education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), according to a report by the Scottish Parliament's education and skills committee.

MSPs have been conducting an inquiry into the importance of STEM, and their report calls for new measures to increase teacher confidence in teaching STEM subjects in early years as well as improving internet connectivity in schools - particularly those in deprived and rural locations.

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Committee convener, Clare Adamson MSP said: “We heard so much about the innovative and fantastic work being doing by leaders in our schools and communities to grow STEM skills amongst our young people.

“These are skills which will become evermore critical as we enter the fourth industrial revolution which will see massive technological changes affecting changes to work and employment in the future.

“To ensure our young people are equipped with the skills of the future, we want the Scottish Government to do more to measure the effectiveness of the strategies in place such as the STEM strategy.

“But measurements alone are not enough. We need systemic change to address continued disadvantage which exists, as identified in the Committee's report. We need inclusive economic growth, the fourth industrial revolution will provide so many opportunities for our young people and they need the skills to take up these opportunities.”

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Her call was backed by Talat Yaqoob Director of Equate Scotland, the organisation which aims to support and boost the numbers of women and girls working in STEM. She said: “There are many welcome initiatives across Scotland to increase girls’ participation in STEM, but what this report rightly points out, is that these initiatives are under-resourced, are not consistent across Scotland and often don’t target the areas and the young women furthest away from access to opportunity.

"We need to tackle deep rooted inequalities which cause gender stereotyping and which result in occupational segregation; this work needs to be fully invested in and include interventions across the pipeline from early years engagement, right through to employer culture and sexism in the workplace. Without systemic change we risk locking women out of the jobs of the future.”

The Committee's report, published today, will be launched by 50 first year school girls who will take part in a ‘hackathon’ in Holyrood, to produce graphics and visuals based on the report.

Led by dressCode, a charity aimed at closing the gender gap in computing science, the session will be part of their programme which aims to engage, inspire and raising awareness of opportunities in the world of tech for women.