Tag Archives: Geeky Girl Reality

Geeky Girl Reality, 2016, 3rd series

The purpose of our longitudinal study is to develop ongoing insights into girls studying STEM and women pursuing STEM careers, in response to the continuing statistics evidencing the underrepresentation of women in STEM, stereotypical environments and double standards.

GeekGirl

Our 2016 survey of 163 women between the ages of 15-46 representing 16 different countries world wide, focused on developing insights into the current experiences of girls studying STEM at college and University, using a mixed methods approach. Previous series have found links between the impact of early childhood interests and how they affect the pursuit of STEM careers in the future (please see our previous blog) and how higher education affects a woman’s interest and confidence in STEM (see our previous blog)

 

Following on from our previous 2016 findings, this series analyses the relationship between different preparation activities girls undertake related to their STEM careers with their 10 year plans and confidence ‘getting a job’.

Preparation and 10 year plan

Graph 1 shows the relationship between different preparation activities on the horizontal axis and 10 year career plans on the vertical axis; the pink bar indicates the percentage of girls who predict they will be in a STEM career in 10 years and the green bar indicates the percentage of girls who predict they will be in a non STEM career.

[GGR] Blog Post #3 - Visual #1 (2)

Results from Graph 1 indicate that girls who undertake preparations in the form of research and enrollment onto programmes are around 10% and 12% respectively more likely to pursue a STEM career in the future compared to girls who undertake preparations in the form of interview practice, attending seminars and conferences, studying for STEM and taking part in volunteer and internship opportunities. Participants expressed their concern for creating more programs focused on young girls; “Have more programs aimed at the youth” suggesting that Schools and Colleges could provide more opportunities for young girls to get involved with STEM; introducing coding clubs, women ‘role model’  guest speakers and promoting general awareness and exposure to different STEM subjects. In the long run, these early influences could foster stronger STEM identities in women helping to retain them in STEM careers.

Participant #148

Furthermore results indicate that overall preparations for STEM are a good protective factor against attrition from STEM in later life, with more than 60% of girls who take part in preparational activities in total having plans to stay in STEM careers. The findings may suggest that those girls who invest more time into preparation such as carrying out research activities are less likely to deviate away from STEM careers in the future.

 

These initial insights suggest that girls should be encouraged to take part in different preparations regarding STEM.

 

Preparations and Confidence

Graph 2 shows the relationship between the different preparations and the perceived confidence levels of girls ‘getting a job’ in STEM. The horizontal axis indicates the confidence scores and the vertical axis indicates the preparational activity using the colour keyed circles.

[GGR] Blog Post #3 - Visual #2 (1)

Research suggests that low ‘Professional’ confidence is a contributing factor causing attrition from STEM. Interestingly the results in graph 2 indicate a significant association between different preparations and confidence ‘getting a job’. ‘Interview practice’ as a preparation activity is associated with the least confidence, with ‘programs’ being 25% more likely to be associated with confidence in getting a job compared to interview practice, with an average score of 4.2 out of 5.

Participant #18

Moreover, women emphasised their concern that more programs need to be made available to help encourage young girlsThere should be more accessible programs for girls at younger ages and more well-rounded visibility and representation of women in STEM fields in media“ further adding substance to the argument that society needs to be targeting STEM interest at a young age in girls, which may help build their confidence over time and suggests that media representation may hold some accountability for the confidence levels in women. Although more companies are starting to realise the benefit of employing more women in the field (see how Microsoft’s #MakeWhatsNext and Google’s madewithcode are helping to nurture young female talent with initiatives) there is still a long way to go.  

 

‘Volunteering/internships’ were also significantly positively correlated with confidence with an average score of 4.1 out of 5, with one participant emphasizing the importance of internships in creating a more structured career focus, “Internships. Internships. I can’t stress that enough. Getting hands-on experience can be the make-or-break when deciding what field one wants to pursue”. Research was also expressed as one of the most significant preparation methods increasing confidence scoring around 4.1 out of 5, which would suggest that increasing more funding and flexibility for women pursuing research in STEM would help improve confidence and lower attrition, with participants further suggesting “in STEM fields, increased grants and scholarships will entice more females”, “Scholarships/funding for women to take postgraduate courses” as key areas that could be improved to encourage future generations of women to pursue STEM as a career.

 

This would suggest that ‘programs’ and ‘research’ play an important role in both attrition and confidence.

 

These findings may be explained using ‘investment theory’ in that preparations which involve a large amount of sacrifice and investment with regards to time make it less likely to deviate from this path even in circumstances that are adverse, thus possibly acting as a protective factor against the adverse effects to women’s confidence with regards to stereotypes and ‘masculine’ environments.

 

Encouraging more women to continue studying STEM

 

  1. College and Universities can help to encourage girls to take part in different preparational activities by holding different open evenings and information talks about different programmes they can get involved with.

 

  1. Increasing the awareness and accessibility of internships and volunteering opportunities for girls. This can be achieved through social media and student unions at college and universities where students can access different opportunities.

 

  1. More research opportunities for girls to get involved in at College and University. Extra curricular activities could focus on research skills and helping students develop their own interests and small independent projects.

 

We can change the future if we work together.

This has been the third in a series of exploration into the experiences of women in science, technology, engineering, or maths. Keep an eye out for more posts as we look at other influences affecting women’s careers.

 

Contributors

Andrea Lewis, Raiya Al-Ansari, Molly Goodman

Ad Hoc London Team

Ad Hoc London explores audience needs in the UK. We routinely conduct UX and usability research in London, Southampton, Manchester, and Glasgow. We optimise information for laptops, tablets and smartphones so customers have the best possible user experience. We help clients benefit from understanding their audiences’ varying needs.

Geeky Girl Reality, 2016, 2nd Series

Geeky Girl Reality is a longitudinal independent study created in response to the surprising lack of women represented in STEM careers. It aims to give voices to women interested in STEM and allows us to construct meaning and data surrounding their experiences as womenGeekGirl

The Continuation of this blog series reflects our findings from our Spring 2016 survey of 163 women between the ages of 15-46 who represent 16 countries from around the world. (please see our previous blog for our findings on the impact of early childhood interests and how they affect the pursuit of STEM careers later on in life).

 

Here we take a look at how higher education affects a woman’s interest and confidence in STEM.

Confidence and 10 Year Plan

Our data indicates that career paths and confidence are significantly influenced during college. As stated by one participant, “Gender stereotypes are still associated with classes and discourage students from exploring their interests.”

This trend can be seen from the bar graph below, which compares our survey participants’ year of study to their 10-year plans and confidence levels in getting a job.

[GGR] Blog Post #2 - Visual #1

 

On the horizontal axis, each year of study is listed along with a bar representing the corresponding 10-year plan responses. The pink bars are the percentages of women planning to pursue a STEM career; the green bars are the percentages of women planning to pursue a non-STEM career, or indicating no career plan. The overlapping blue line represents our participants’ confidence levels from year to year.

Respondents in their first year of college had high levels of confidence averaging at 4.1 out of 5, and 63% of them had a 10-year plan involving a STEM career. However, this percentage dropped to only 37% for those in their second year of college. This year also correlated to a drop in confidence to levels of 3.6.

Confidence levels steadily rose for women in their later years of college, averaging as high as 4.2 in year 5. Meanwhile, women planning to pursue STEM rose in the third year to its highest point at 67%, and then fluctuated for years 4 and 5 between 50% and 63%.

Although the upward trend for both variables in the third year seems positive, it could indicate that the proportion of women who lose confidence in their second year choose to leave STEM fields, resulting in an inflation of these values the following year. What causes the drop in the second year isn’t clear. However, this negative trend may be caused by social stigma, lack of support, encouragement and female mentors for women at College. One participant stated “males in engineering are treated with more respect than females. A girl has to speak twice as loud and work twice as hard just to be recognised on a ‘level playing field’.” These double standards in learning experiences could alienate women making them question their abilities.

Could the hiring of more women faculty members help combat this fall in confidence? Results from our previous series suggest this may be the case, with unrelated female mentors increasing the likelihood of women pursuing STEM careers. Interestingly a recent article found women now have a better chance than men at being hired as professors, which may indicate cultures are changing slowly amongst HE institutions.  

Subject Studied

Class standings also indicated a relationship with our participants’ areas of study. To demonstrate this, we used the line graph below to compare the subjects studied by our participants to their year of study.blog2

On the horizontal axis, each year of study is listed chronologically from 1 to 5. Each subject is represented by a differently colored line that shows the percentages of students studying the subject. The variations in the lines indicate how these percentages change from year to year.

 

46% of our freshman (year 1) participants studied computer science (CS), making it the most studied subject for that year. As the class standing increased, however, the number of participants studying CS steadily decreased to the point where only 18% of women studied it in year 5.

The life sciences (bio, physical, human, and health) showed the opposite trend. Human and health sciences were studied by only 6% of freshman students, but were one of the top subjects for year 5 students at 24%. Similarly, biosciences and physical sciences were studied by 23% of freshman students, but increased significantly for year 5 students, where they were the most studied subjects at 35%.

It appears that women in STEM start out college with a higherinterest in technology fields, but as the years go by, they are more likely to leave college pursuing a life science. Additionally, CS courses could be the cause for the loss of confidence discussed earlier, since the number of CS students begin to decrease in the same year that our participants had a drop in confidence.

These results could also indicate that CS is grounded within a ‘deeper’ male orientated culture compared to the other STEM subjects where women find it more difficult to ‘identify’ and ‘find a place’. One CS participant stated “Women face harsher penalties for their mistakes, from both themselves and their peers.” suggesting women feel at battle internally and externally with the social stigma surrounding their role within the subject. These pressures could provide one explanation as to why more women leave CS.  

Encouraging more women to continue studying STEM

There are a number of steps we can take to improve the retention rate of women in science and tech:

 

  1. Establish college programs geared towards freshmen and sophomores in STEM that provide a safe place for them to share their struggles and get advice.

 

  1. Appoint more women as faculty members in STEM to empower female students and limit their feelings of uncertainty.

 

  1. Increase college preparation opportunities in high schools, so students can be more confident and prepared in handling difficult college courses.

 

  1. Encourage the women you know to become mentors for other women who are just starting out in their college education. If you’re a woman in science or tech, consider becoming a mentor yourself.

 

We can change the future if we work together.

This has been the second in a series of exploration into the experiences of women in science, technology, engineering, or maths. Keep an eye out for more posts as we look at other influences affecting women’s careers.

Contributors

Andrea Lewis, Raiya Al-Ansari, Molly Goodman

References:

Cruz, E. (2016, July 27). The Gap Between Women and Men in STEM and What You Can Do About It [Web log post].

Ad Hoc London Team

Ad Hoc London explores audience needs in the UK. We routinely conduct UX and usability research in London, Southampton, Manchester, and Glasgow. We optimise information for laptops, tablets and smartphones so customers have the best possible user experience. We help clients benefit from understanding their audiences’ varying needs.

Geeky Girl Reality, 2016

There are still comparatively few women working in science and technology. Recent studies show that only 23% of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals are women, and 27% of these are likely to leave their job within the first year.

So, why aren’t more women entering and remaining in science and technology? What’s causing this gender gap?

Geeky Girl Reality is a longitudinal, independent research project looking at how women’s experiences influence GeekGirltheir interests in science and technology.

We’re drawing on data from a spring 2016 survey of 163 women between the ages of 15-46 from 16 countries around the world.

From their stories, we learn about the effects women’s experiences have on their pursuit of higher education in science, technology, engineering, and maths. We have discovered some interesting insights.

Having a plan

To start, we’ll take a look at our participants’ early life experiences and how their plans are affected by their childhood interests or mentors.

Our data indicates that career paths are influenced very early on by childhood interests. One participant said that, “One of the main reasons why I am so involved in math and CS [Computer Science] now is because I was exposed to both subjects at a very young age.”

This trend can be seen from the bar graph below, which compares our survey participants’ childhood interests to their 10-year plans.

ggr-blog-post-1-visual-1

On the horizontal axis, each childhood interest is listed along with a bar representing the corresponding 10-year plan responses. The pink bars are the percentages of women planning to pursue a STEM career; the green bars are the percentages of women planning to pursue a non-STEM career, or there was no indication of a career plan.

Those who had technology or science-based childhood interests were more likely to plan for a science or tech career

 

 

At least 52% of respondents with an interest in technology or science as a child had a 10-year plan involving a STEM career. This rose to 76% for those with an affinity for tech.

The 33% of young women who lacked exposure to science or technology said they were more likely to go into other areas instead.

Having a mentor

Childhood interests were not the only early life factors affecting their career choices. Mentors also played an important role in their plans for the future. According to one of our participants, “[My mentor] has taught me a lot about being a woman out in the real world and has helped me choose what I want to do.”

We can see this by comparing their mentors (on the horizontal axis) to their 10-year plans.

ggr-blog-post-1-visual-2

More than half of women with no mentor or with an unrelated male mentor did not plan to pursue a STEM career. By contrast, women with an unrelated female mentor were the most likely to pursue STEM, with 68% of them indicating a STEM-related career plan.

It appears that women are most encouraged when they have another successful woman as an inspiration. It’s possible that male mentors are not as easy to relate to, and made them feel like they didn’t belong in the relevant fields.

Getting more women interested in STEM careers

There are a number of steps we can take to get more women in science and tech:

  1. Talk to young girls about science and tech to give them the opportunity to explore those subjects from a younger age.
  1. Encourage the women you know to become mentors for other women and girls who are just starting out on their career paths. If you’re a woman in science or tech, consider becoming a mentor yourself.
  1. Establish a mentorship program within your organization to empower female employees in science and tech.
  1. Implement more science and tech courses in early education to increase young girls’ exposure to these fields.

We can change the future if we work together.

This has just been the start of our exploration into the experiences of women in science, technology, engineering, or maths. Keep an eye out for more posts as we look at other influences affecting women’s careers.

Contributors

Andrea Lewis, Sabah Rahman, Raiya Al-Ansari

References:

Cruz, E. (2016, July 27). The Gap Between Women and Men in STEM and What You Can Do About It [Web log post].

Ad Hoc London Team

Ad Hoc London explores audience needs in the UK. We routinely conduct UX and usability research in London, Southampton, Manchester, and Glasgow. We optimise information for laptops, tablets and smartphones so customers have the best possible user experience. We help clients benefit from understanding their audiences’ varying needs.

Geeky Girl Reality

The Geeky Girl Reality is a study that will help us understand the reasons as to why there aren’t more girls in “geeky” fields (science, technology, engineering, and maths!)

GeekyGirlTwitter

The results of this survey will shed light on how entering a “geeky” field can be improved for all girls, the types of fun tech that girls are into, and why there aren’t equal numbers of girls and boys in STEM fields.

Tidbits from our most current research:

GeekyGirlResearchsofar

So, are you a “geeky” girl with a passion for science or tech and currently attending University? Did you love science as a child or did your interest bloom later in life?

 

Tell us about who or what encouraged you and you can be entered into our prize drawing for Amazon gift cards! Who doesn’t like free stuff, right?

GeekyGirlSurveyLink

Ad Hoc London Team

Ad Hoc London explores audience needs in the UK. We routinely conduct UX and usability research in London, Southampton, Manchester, and Glasgow. We optimise information for laptops, tablets and smartphones so customers have the best possible user experience. We help clients benefit from understanding their audiences’ varying needs.