With the hope to alter some of the STEM stereotypes and encourage more young girl to forge careers in the sector, Mattel Inc, the US manufacturing company that produces Barbie, has released a new STEM-themes doll – the ‘Robotics Engineer Barbie’.
“When you ask children to draw a scientist at a young age, they will draw both men and women,” said Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe, founder of STEM Women.“Then after a certain age they tend to only draw older, white men, Einstein types and this is because of cultural conditioning.”
She explained that girls’ interest in a career in a scientific field drops at the age of 16 due to cultural conditioning. However, something has to be done to challenge the conditioning, break down stereotypes and allow young girls to see themselves in science, engineering and technical roles.
She carried on speaking about the biggest problem, which is actually keeping women in STEM. “Women get into STEM okay, you go through a lot of studying and interviews that you were already biased against and you have a fair amount of battle scars getting into the profession, but then women see no progression, so it is how to keep them in STEM.”
Her view on the subject resonated with CEO of Women’s Engineering Society (WES), Kirsten Bodley. WES’s most recent campaign focused on the female ‘transferrers and returners’ into engineering, the women returning to the industry, as only 11% of the entire UK engineering workforce are women. In order to support women returning to their STEM careers, Bodley suggested that they need “mentoring” and “leadership”.
By encouraging young girls and keeping women in the field, the UK needs to make careers in STEM more accessible for women and create the positive role models they need.To do this however, the industry needs to improve leadership and support for women in the industry, who feel they are not able to work or return to STEM job roles because of bias, stereotype and lack of progression.