Pushing girls to STEM – right or wrong?

Microsoft have issued a press release about an event they hosted to coincide with International Women’s Day encouraging girls in Sri Lanka to take STEM career paths. The article is as interesting for what it doesn’t say as for what it does. You can guess the thrust – more girls should take STEM subjects at university. Intriguingly, it points out that more than half of undergraduates in Sri Lanka are women but those in STEM subjects make up much less than half the numbers. Women have a tendency to study social sciences and humanities, raising questions of why this happens. Research is needed to establish more definitively what drives social imbalances such as this. Is it nature? Women are better at social sciences and humanities and so choose those subjects? Or is it nurture? Girls are discouraged from participation from early years by cultural biases. Is this even a problem? The press release mentions higher salaries in STEM based jobs but doesn’t address questions of job availability, growth forecasts, job cultures and such. Nor does it relate salaries to lifestyle needs. Why get a bigger salary if the salary you have is enough? It states that future growth will come from STEM subjects without anything to back this up. So a great example of how argument can be stimulated, and a big question for society as it thinks about the future of education.

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