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The STEM field is failing to attract female talent

Mireia Usart, Sònia Sánchez-Canut and Beatriz Lores, Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Project selected in the Social Research Call 2019 (LCF/PR/SR19/52540001)

The need to intensify women’s positioning in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is currently under the spotlight of public debate. Increasingly, different professions require an entire range of sets of technical knowledge, which means that women’s low participation in the STEM fields could leave them in a situation of inequality with respect to men. In Spain, women account for only 16% of professionals in the STEM fields. Also significant is the low percentage of women interested in taking a degree related to this field. Thus, the gender gap related to science and technology studies continues to represent a problem in university education. Despite the fact that different administrations, both state and international, are promoting an increase in these vocations, a loss of STEM talent is being observed that needs to be remedied. For this reason, it is fundamental to connect women with STEM subjects from the very first years of their school life.
Key points
  • 1
       In Spain, only 16% of professionals in the STEM field are women, and very few adolescent females, just 0.7%, show interest in studying a degree related to digital technologies, versus 7% of men.
  • 2
       Women enrol less on science and technology university courses than men, although once their studies have commenced, it is women who present the lowest dropout rates, above all in the in-person education modality. For virtual degrees, the tendency is inverted: over half of women drop out of their courses, and this proportion increases in the areas of engineering and maths.
  • 3
       The achievement of women in STEM area courses, measured as the percentage of subjects passed with respect to those in which they are enrolled, is greater than that of men.
  • 4
       The average grade in STEM university courses is similar for both sexes, although men obtain a better grade in their academic record for courses linked to mathematics, while women excel in engineering and architecture.
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