Why aren’t female students sticking with STEM?

Data from female middle and high school students shows high aptitude for careers in STEM fields, but limited interest due to exposure gaps

Female middle and high school students have a high aptitude fit with, but low interest in, STEM careers, such as technology, manufacturing, and architecture, among others, according to the 2023 Female Student and STEM Career Exposure Gap Report from YouScience.

Based on nationwide data gathered from the test results of more than 225,000 female middle and high school students who completed the Aptitude & Career Discovery assessment from YouScience Brightpath in 2022, the key findings show that female students have:

  • More than 11x the aptitude for Advanced Manufacturing careers than interest
  • 8x more aptitude for Computers & Technology careers than interest
  • Nearly 4x more aptitude for Agriculture & Natural Resources than interest
  • Nearly 3x more aptitude for Architecture & Construction careers than interest

Additionally, the report found that female students have greater interest than aptitude for careers in Human Services, Law and Public Safety, Teaching, and Arts & Media.

These insights confirm that a career exposure gap exists for female students, especially in STEM — an area in which jobs are expected to increase by almost 11 percent by 2031. Historically, however, women have held less than one-third of those jobs. According to the United States Census Bureau, there were approximately 10 million workers in STEM occupations as of 2019, but only 27 percent of those were women.

“There is no question that more and more of our nation’s jobs over the course of the next several years will be in STEM. However, there is a very important question we must ask about who will fill those jobs given that the career exposure gap remains among female students today,” said Jeri Larsen, Chief Operating Officer at YouScience.

“To address this gap, ensure the pipeline of STEM jobs can be filled in the coming years, and provide female students with the same opportunities as their male counterparts, we must first show them that they have extraordinary potential. We need to do so as early as middle school, and then help guide them to pursue the pathways to the careers they are best suited for, in STEM or elsewhere.”

From the Aptitude & Career Discovery assessment, YouScience analyzed the data, comparing students’ self-reported interests with their aptitude, and then grouped the results by high fit careers based on the 16 standard career clusters defined in The National Career Clusters Framework in the Career Technical Education (CTE) program.

To determine high fit clusters for each student, YouScience ranked each student’s top three clusters from a fit perspective, using either aptitude or interest measurements.

To see all of the findings as well as download the full report, please visit youscience.com.

This press release originally appeared online.

Laura Ascione