Today I am interviewing my daughter, who will be sitting for her final senior high school exams shortly. While this interview isn’t related to the subject of diversity in tech, it comes close: she is taking Science and Math subjects which are part of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics), and hopes to study Engineering at university next year. I thought it would be interesting to hear some of her perspective.
Note that my daughter’s responses below relate to her experiences (and hers only) in two Australian high schools that she has attended. Her references to year levels follow the Australian education system.
Question: Why did you choose to study STEM subjects in high school?
Answer: I guess there are three main reasons. I enjoy STEM subjects, and they make sense to me. As in, I find there is a rule to everything. Second, for STEM subjects, I don’t have to write essays based on opinion, or essays that seek to persuade. Finally, I need to take these subjects in order to be accepted into the engineering university course I’ve chosen.
Question: Do you know many other girls who are studying STEM subjects in the high schools you’ve attended?
Answer: There’s been a balance: in my previous high school [her first three years of high school] several girls in my friendship group were studying both STEM and Humanities/Arts subjects. I don’t know how many of them kept studying STEM subjects in their senior school years. In my current high school, 75% of students studying Chemistry and 50% of students studying Physics are female.
Question: So, in your opinion and based on your observations, is there a gender disparity in high school students studying STEM subjects?
Answer: I think there is in Maths and Engineering. Funnily enough in my current school [final two years of high school] there are two girls and one boy in my year level doing Specialist Maths.* But in my previous school there were only boys doing Specialist Maths in Years 11 & 12 [final two years of high school]. And the majority of students doing Engineering as a subject in my previous high school were boys. From what I saw in my previous high school, more boys were interested in doing subjects that involved coding and programming compared to girls. Including myself.
* – Note that Specialist Mathematics is an ‘enrichment math subject’ – as described by ArcTutoring in their blog article here.
Question: What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
Answer: i want a career in Science or Engineering. I just don’t know what that would look like yet. I’d like to be in a job that helps people in some way, even if it is behind the scenes – for example, in a lab or in a desk job.
That’s all! Note that comments have been disabled on this post since it relates to a minor.
Featured image by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels.com.