Just 30% of all students who start an engineering programme at university in Sweden are women. But almost 90% of all year-five students, both boys and girls, say they are interested in maths and technology. When asked in lower secondary, 70% of boys and under 40% of girls say they are interested in these subjects. So why do girls lose interest in maths and technology? And what are the consequences of this both for them and for society at large?
According to Ulrika Lindstrand, chairperson for the Swedish Association of Graduate Engineers, girls and boys are treated differently when it comes to their performance in maths. Girls who get flying colours on their maths tests are told well done while boys are told they have a special talent. So it’s no wonder that girls feel to a greater extent that they are missing a flair for maths. What’s more, a greater number of women than men feel uncomfortable helping others with maths which means there are fewer female role models for kids to look up to when they are learning to count.
We need to make sure our expectations for boys and girls are the same, and give them both role models and the same opportunities to develop at maths. Otherwise we risk passing on this poor self-confidence and low expectations for girls to the next generation. This leads to a continued divide in the technical professions and also to a greater pay gap between women and men.
Luckily there are a few things we can do together to help make a difference:
Encourage both boys and girls to do maths from an early age.
Be a role model and try to create a positive attitude towards maths even if you find the subject difficult yourself.
Inspire girls to choose a career in the technical and engineering professions.
Stop talking about maths as something you either have the knack for or you don’t - practice really does make perfect!
Get started with Albert’s fun exercises and awaken a curiosity for maths today!