Washington, US January 15 ANI A recent study conducted by a team of international researchers found that boys are more interested in computer science and engineering than girls, starting as young as six years old.
That may be one of the reasons why girls and women are underrepresented in STEM career fields, according to Allison Master, assistant professor at the University Of Houston College Of Education.
Many girls have made their decision not to pursue degrees in computer science and engineering because they feel they don't belong to gender-interest stereotypes that say STEM is for boys' begin in grade school, and by the time they reach high school, they have made the decision not to follow degrees in computer science and engineering because they feel they don't belong, said Master.
Researchers at UH and the University of Washington surveyed nearly 2,500 students in the first through 12th grades from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. The results of those studies were combined with laboratory experiments to provide important insights into how stereotypes impacted children's motivation.
More children believed girls had less interest in STEM fields than boys. 63 per cent of the students believed girls were less interested in engineering than boys, while 9 per cent believed girls were more interested in the subject.
According to the computer science, 51 per cent thought girls had less interest and 14 per cent thought girls had more interest than boys.
Interest patterns played out in the job market. According to the United States Census Bureau, while women made up nearly half of the workforce, they accounted for only 25 per cent of computer scientists and 15 per cent of engineers.
The researchers said that educators, parents, and policymakers can help close these gender gaps by introducing girls to high-quality computer science and engineering activities in elementary school before stereotype endorsements take root.
They also suggested educators who wish to promote girls' interest and engagement in STEM should consider using inclusive programs designed to encourage girls' sense of belonging in STEM.
The children were given the choice between computer science activities and laboratory experiments. Fewer girls only 35 per cent chose a computer science activity that boys were more interested in, compared to 65 per cent of girls who chose an activity for which they believed boys and girls were equally interested, as compared to the 65 per cent of boys who chose an activity that they believed boys and girls were more interested in.
Master, who leads UH's Identity and Academic Motivation I AM Lab, said that it's time for all stakeholders to be united in sending the message that girls can enjoy STEM just as much as boys do, which will help draw them into STEM activities.