A workforce trained in STEM skills is a fundamental requisite for socioeconomic wellbeing and innovation, however one of the factors limiting its availability is the progressive attrition of women along the academic and professional pipeline. In this study, a survey was carried out with 504 students aged 14 to 18 in two British high schools to investigate any association between students’ gender or parental education status and their engagement with STEM disciplines.
This study highlighted a worrying trend in terms of students’ choice of scientific role models: only 12% of the participants picked a woman when asked to name an influential scientist, suggesting that the limited availability of female role models might be a factor contributing to the gender gap from an early stage of the STEM educational pipeline. Our data also confirm previous observations that, while girls are overall less likely to express preference for the majority of STEM subjects, they are significantly more likely than boys to express a preference for biology.
Moreover, we found a previously unreported association between parental education and students’ choice of science news sources, whereby participants whose parents/guardians have a university degree are more likely to mention their parents as a source.