Research conducted by the NZ Careers Service in 2012 showed that parental influence is one of the greatest determinants of subject focus and career selection. Assuming that to be true, if parents do not come from STEM (Science Technology Engineering Maths) backgrounds how are we going to increase the numbers of bright students who are encouraged or directed to choose STEM over careers which reflect the demands of the last century?
Illustrating the extent of this problem, research across the world continues to show law as a prestigious career choice and option, while at the same time unemployment for law graduates increases, as law continues on its path of commoditisation. The challenge then for New Zealand is what do we need to do to educate the parents and encourage the young, so our brightest and best make wise choices for the future world of work that many struggle to imagine.
If there is a problem encouraging bright students into STEM, there is an even bigger problem encouraging young women in. 15 October is the day that has been selected to celebrate the achievements of women in STEM. The need for such a day is partly due to the result of research that showed that women more than men need role models of their own gender.
For those who have forgotten, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron. A mathematician and writer, she worked on Charles Babbage's early computer, the Analytical Engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm and as a result she is often described as the world's first computer programmer. Her choice as the flag bearer for this movement resonates particularly because her mother was adamant about her pursuing intellectual pursuits and not the behaviour of her idealistic writer father.
Ada Lovelace events are being held across the world this week including a continuation of last year’s very successful Wikipedia update-a-thons. Initiated by Imperial College the aim is to add and update entries for women who had achieved in STEM fields. If there are any New Zealand 2013 events they are not obvious, but maybe next year they will be. Happy to be pointed in the right direction.
Maybe the solution for New Zealand in 2014 is that we also pick 15 October as “No more Lawyers Day” and let the enthusiasm of people signal to your young people and particularly our young women of the wisdom of STEM careers over traditional and dying arts.
Ubergeeke Girl pictured below has been developed to provide a graphical representation of how cool being a woman in technology can be. There is a reason she does not have a wig and gown!