computer worker

As a savvy and tech-embracing educator, you’ve probably read plenty of literature about the critical need for qualified graduates, not just in IT, but also in STEM fields in general (scientists, doctors and engineers, as well as software developers and programmers).

Just to refresh your memory, here are some sobering statistics, taken from this Microsoft infographic:

  • By 2018, the United States will have over 1.2 million jobs open in STEM fields
  • 80% of jobs in the next decade will require technology skills
  • The U.S. ranks 25th out of 30 in an international assessment of high schoolers’ math performance
  • Only 16% of Bachelor’s Degrees in 2020 will specialize in STEM

There’s an obvious need to create awareness of and interest in an IT career pathway for our high school (and middle school, and elementary school) students. But how to best reach both boys and girls? The following data might lend some insights.

Boys and Girls Have Different Motivation

According to national findings released by Microsoft, male STEM students were:

  • More likely to pursue STEM because of their lifelong love of video games, toys, books and clubs relating to their chosen field of study

By contrast:

  • 68% of female students cited a teacher or class as their inspiration to pursue a STEM field
  • 49% of female students pursuing STEM said that they chose the STEM path to make a difference

Although each student must be treated as an individual case, we can probably learn something from these statistics. We already know that a girl, who’s at least somewhat intrigued by the field of IT, might take the leap if a trusted teacher encourages her. We also know that we can try to appeal to male students by tying IT in with video games or other hobbies. We can also emphasize the global impact that a STEM degree (including IT) can have to spark girls’ interest.

Other Motivations

Students expressed other motivations for choosing a STEM career path. In general, most of the students surveyed cited their own future security and success as the reason for their choice:

  • 68 % of students said they sought a solid salary from a STEM path
  • 66% of students mentioned job potential as the reason for pursuing a STEM path
  • 68% of students said they chose their degree program because they found the subjects intellectually stimulating and challenging

How can educators use this knowledge to bring even more students into the STEM and IT fold?

Here are some ideas:

  • Emphasize the potential to make a positive difference in the world, whether through finding cures for global diseases or engineering new medical equipment
  • Emphasize the aspect of intellectual challenge, innovation and adventure
  • Connect STEM and IT to hobbies that students enjoy, such as video games and animated movies
  • Connect STEM skills to fields that students might not traditionally associate with STEM, such as culinary arts, environmental protection and movie production
  • Present students with the reality of STEM/IT demand in the future, and make them believe they can be one of the much-needed recruits
  • Let students know about the probability of higher earnings and greater job potential within STEM and IT careers