In recent years, women in STEM careers have moderately increased, statistics showing that women working in STEM fields in the UK have increased from 21% in 2016 to 24% in 2019. In 2020, there was 29.4% of women working in core STEM jobs. Despite this progress, women remain disproportionately underrepresented. On top of that, it is suggested that boys are discouraged from taking the arts subjects in school, for reasons including social stigma, societal pressures and their peers, and own perceptions of subjects at school. These pressures have resulted in boys feeling restricted to selecting the deemed “masculine” subjects such as Sports and STEM. Furthermore, the importance of breaking down gender stereotypes in education is essential as it would help lead to a more equal division of science and art industries in the UK.  

Encouraging women to pursue STEM subjects is vital in creating an equal division in science. Although many girls love and work towards arty, or humanity-based careers, some feel pressured or influenced into choosing the non-STEM subjects that lead them to careers they feel alienated in. For many years, this lack of representation has deprived science fields of varied perspectives, research and knowledge. Not only this, but a lot of STEM fields offer some of the most rewarding and high salary careers out there; both things would be beneficial as society benefits from the diversity of people in STEM, and women have the opportunity of greater financial independence. So, breaking down gender stereotypes in schools can pave the way for women to pursue their careers without feeling held back by societal pressures. 

Inspiring and encouraging boys to pursue the arts is just as important to create a more well-rounded and creative society. Similarly, to girls, boys may feel put off taking arty subjects due to objection and stereotypes despite the number of benefits that pursuing art has. Participating in arts can help develop critical thinking, creativity and the ability to stretch your imagination. Despite common misconceptions, there are numerous essential art subjects besides graphics and design. For example, music, literature, TV, film, theatre and even history are all domains considered to be art, which are proven to help boys develop better emotional intelligence, cultural awareness and boost their self-esteem. By encouraging boys to pursue artistic passions we can equally value creativity, self-expression and imagination to the same extent that a lot of men and boys value science, tech and sport. In this way, gender stereotypes are being broken down as we move forward towards a more diverse society.  

For this to happen, the education system must take an active role in both promoting and supporting men and women in these fields. This means providing mentors, role models of both genders, and creating learning environments that celebrate inclusion. We also need to eliminate the idea that women aren’t as good at science as men, and the same for men not being as good at women in art. By providing the right resources and support to women can help them thrive in science. Furthermore, teachers and educators can promote the arts to boys by involving creative activities and learning techniques into their lessons, as well as displaying male role models as inspiration and motivation for success in art.  

Another way in which we can collectively challenge gender stereotypes in education to promote intersectionality, which acknowledges that people from multiple identities have a range of different experiences. For example, girls from ethnic minority groups, different age groups, disabilities or other identities may face barriers to entering STEM fields due to systematic inequalities. But by welcoming intersectionality we can embrace a range of different people in the same field and represent women from different backgrounds to promote positive role models to future generations.  

This issue is particularly important for students in year 11, 12, and 13 right now as they are making decisions regarding their future career. Students in year 11 are on the verge of writing their GCSE’s, making the decision to go to college, sixth form, or an apprenticeship, whilst year 12 and 13 students are facing A-Level examinations and mock exams. To gather some opinions on gender stereotypes in school, I spoke with a couple of Year 12 students. Tanisha Kalutota, who is studying Physics, Maths and Further Maths, agrees that gender stereotypes should be broken down. “I think it’s important for girls to be supported in STEM because it is already quite a disjointed field, and there’s a clear disparity between men and women. If more people are supported, it would increase the number of women looking to get into the field and therefore increase the equality.”  

“I just think representation in science should be increased and made more accurate. Female representation needs to be better because when women look at the media, doctors and coders tend to be men. I don’t think that’s accurate because a lot of women want to get into these fields as well. Although I've never really felt held back pursuing physics and maths, mainly because I think I got lucky with my classes in school tending to have an even split of girls and boys, I do want to help break down stereotypes.” 

Emilie Kolesnikov, studying A-Level Biology with an interest in marine science had some similar views. “I believe that it is very important to support girls in STEM, as they are the main subjects that experience a difference between genders and require a boost in numbers. STEM subjects are important for our future if we want to technologically advance and make scientific breakthroughs and discoveries, so we need to boost the numbers overall and support girls getting these highly sought after jobs. Female representation can be highly beneficial for our society; by having more of it in the scientific domain, it allows women who feel daunted in such male dominated environments to feel confident and eliminates the fear of discrimination, in return boosting the scientific field.” 

“I recently visited Plymouth University for an open day all about science, and there were as many men as there were women. It looked like the women who were there were extremely supported in all the sciences. Gender equality in science has improved quite a bit, which can be seen in our history, and the support in women is a massive egoist for those interested in pursuing something in the scientific field.” 

Another Year 12 student, Olly Rickard, who is taking English Language, History and Geography, had a similar verdict. “I think that there should be a more equal division for women in STEM and men in arts. However, I think STEM and arts should be seen as equal too and we should acknowledge their differences and recognize that they can’t be compared. I really enjoy arts, since my subjects mostly consist of them. I have noticed that most of my classes are female dominated, but I think a more balanced gender representation would be beneficial. I don’t think that at this point, there are that many conscious decisions based on gender, but I have noticed girls being more drawn towards these types of subjects. Overall, is it important to have an equal amount in each but it shouldn’t be that STEM and art are being compared and one is better than the other.” 

Personally, I think that breaking down gender stereotypes is crucial in creating a more inclusive society. It's important to consider the amount of talent and passion that both genders (and people of any identity) can bring to the table when it comes to important industries such as science and the arts. It is your own decision to help to support and empower others with interests in these branches that will hopefully lead to equal representation.