Female students say they feel less equipped to tackle future careers because they haven’t necessarily learned about the new technologies shaping those future career fields, according to a new survey.
The Quizlet survey polled more than 1,000 Americans between the ages of 13 and 24 to ask them about their familiarity with the future of work and how they are learning about it in school.
The good news is that 95 percent of students know about the future of work and why it is important and relevant to their learning. But the survey also reveals some troubling differences between what male and female students know and wish they could learn.
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One in three female students say they wish they learned more about innovative technologies in school, compared to one in four male students.
The survey wonders if it’s possible that female students wish they learned more about emerging technologies because they are increasingly interested in STEM fields. Quizlet’s own data indicates that 20 percent of study sets on Quizlet are related to STEM subjects, and female students using Quizlet are more likely than male students to study STEM subjects.
Both male and female students said they believe robots (47 percent), self-driving cars (46 percent) and artificial intellience (44 percent) will play a role in the future of work.
Sixty percent of students said they have learned about robots in the classroom. Broken down by gender, 70 percent of male students said they have learned about robots in school, but only 55 percent of female students have. The difference may come from different choices about extra-curricular clubs and activities, or may be a result of systemic issues surrounding how male and female students are taught.
And though artificial intelligence is rapidly gaining steam in both education theory and practice, most students don’t really understand what it is. Four in 10 students said they haven’t learned about artificial intelligence or machine learning in school.
Examining the STEM learning differences between male and female students has important implications in society.
A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study revealed that women hold approximately 50 percent of jobs in the country, but only fill just 25 percent of STEM jobs. That same study revealed that 17 of the top 20 highest-paying occupations require STEM skills.
With these gender disparities in mind, a collaborative research project between Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab and the School of Computer Science, called the HEAR ME project, aimed to identify how students themselves feel about STEM education’s importance, and how they think gender bias could, or already does, impact them.
“STEM education has been a very big movement in education, and as we focus specifically on STEM learning, one thing we want to make sure of is that the biggest stakeholder in this is being heard,” said Jessica Kaminsky, project manager of the CREATE Lab at CMU and key researcher behind the HEAR ME project. “Who better to ask about what STEM learning looks like, if they’re seeing a gender bias, than the students who are living out the STEM programs running in their schools?”