Presiding Officer calls for action to encourage more “Girls into STEM”

Published 25/02/2015   |   Last Updated 25/02/2015

​The National Assembly for Wales's Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler AM, will call for more action to encourage more women to take up careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

Dame Rosemary will make the call during a speech at the "Girls into STEM" conference, organised by Career Women Wales in Siambr Hywel, on 27 February.

"If there are ten people in the room and you ask them who Albert Einstein is, or Isaac Newton, then a high percentage would be able to tell you that they are amongst the world's most famous and greatest scientists," the Presiding Officer said.

"Yet if we asked those same ten people who Marie Curie was, or whether they knew Barbara McClintock or Maria Myer, then I suspect the recognition factor would be far lower.

"They were all leaders in their respective scientific fields, and all won Nobel Prizes, and when we look to scientific personalities on television, you may get people recognising Doctor Alice Roberts or Miranda Krestovnikoff, but they are the exception to the rule with many television science programmes being presented by male scientists, archaeologists or engineers.

"I simply use the premise to highlight the wider point about how women are viewed from within, and outside, the scientific community, and how they face barriers to careers, and the top jobs in particular, in the Science, Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) sectors."

Research carried out by Women In Science Engineering & Technology (WISE) reveals that only 13% of STEM jobs in the workforce are occupied by women.

The research also reveals that while girls tend to outperform boys in STEM subjects, participation is dropping off post 16.

"The evidence clearly points to female participation in STEM subjects dropping off at the A-level stage, particularly in subjects such as Physics," the Presiding Officer will tell the conference.

"Should role models be promoted as early on as primary school, or at key decision points such as Year 9 or Year 11 when young women make their GCSE and A-level subject choices?

"These are issues and questions that I want to push to the top of the agenda and I would urge all sectors to take up the challenges, whether it is teachers or scientists working in non-education sectors, to look at how they could get involved in providing mentoring for young women."

Sarah Rees, Director, Career Women Wales, added: "We decided to convene a conference on careers in STEM as there are stark figures showing a huge decline in women's participation from education to employment. 

"STEM roles are a core part of the economic recovery and with just 13% of women employed in the sector, 'dangerous ideas' are exactly what we need to make radical change."