Closing the STEM Gap: Why STEM Classes and Careers Still Lack Girls and What We Can Do About It


Closing the STEM Gap: Why STEM Classes and Careers Still Lack Girls and What We Can Do About It

4 years ago 4 years ago Published by
This report was published by Microsoft.


Despite the high priority placed on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and computer science education across the United States, the fact remains that only a fraction of girls and women are likely to pursue STEM degrees and careers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that technology professionals will experience the highest-growth in job numbers between now and 2030. Failing to bring the minds and perspectives of half the population to STEM and computer science fields stifles innovation and makes it less likely that we can solve today’s social challenges at scale.

Microsoft commissioned this research to understand better what causes girls and women to lose interest in STEM subjects and careers, as well as what strategies and interventions have the greatest potential to reverse this trend. Our goal is to inform our own work in this area and to share our learnings with schools, government leaders, nonprofits, employers, and others.

What we learned is that conditions and context can make a significant difference to girls, young women, and their interest in STEM. And the solution doesn’t necessarily require a curricula overhaul. We may be able to make significant strides just by showing girls and young women how STEM knowledge is applicable outside of the classroom, and how it can power their aspirations to make the world a better place.

Our main research findings show that:

  • Girls and young women have a hard time picturing themselves in STEM roles. They need more exposure to STEM jobs, female role models, and career awareness and planning.
  • Girls don’t initially see the potential for careers in STEM to be creative or have a positive impact on the world. But even a little exposure to real-world applications of STEM knowledge dramatically changes their outlook.
  • Girls who participate in STEM clubs and activities outside of school are more likely to say they will pursue STEM subjects later in their education. The kinds of experiments and experiences girls are exposed to in these activities can provide insights for how to enhance STEM instruction in the classroom.
  • Encouragement from teachers and parents makes a big difference in girls’ interest in STEM—especially when it comes from both teachers and parents.
  • Educators can foster a “growth mindset” among their female students by tapping into their willingness to work hard for results.

We hope that insights gained from this research will help policymakers, educators, parents, and employers like us better understand and overcome the challenges girls and young women face when it comes to pursuing STEM studies and careers. Our current demographics show that there’s no easy path to achieving a more diverse workforce. That’s why we’re committed to continued investment in STEM programs to help bolster the talent pipeline with more talented young women.

Microsoft Philanthropies. (2018). Closing the STEM Gap: Why STEM Classes and Careers Still Lack Girls and What We Can Do About It. Redmond, WA: Author.

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