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Careers in STEM Q4 2023

Fostering diversity in STEM through role model representation

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Callie Rose Winch

Advocacy Analyst, Stemettes

This year, the Government launched the UK’s plan to cement itself as a ‘Global Science and Technology Superpower’ by 2030. Yet, women make up less than 20% of the tech workforce and Black and minority ethnic groups make up to 15%.


Along the pipeline into the STEM sector, marginalised individuals are dropping off, and curriculum reform may be one way to address this.

Current state of STEM representation

In a survey of students commissioned by Stemettes and the British Science Association (2023), it was found that nearly double of the female-identifying respondents disagreed that their ‘identity is reflected in the STEM curriculum.’ Moreover, 1 in 3 students had not been taught about a woman scientist in the past two years.

Stemettes analysed the current UK KS1–4 curriculum and found that there is currently no mention of role models in mathematics at all stages. In science, role models are only mentioned between KS2 and KS3, and of the 23 role models mentioned, four of them are women.

Accessible resources on role models, which can be integrated into established lesson plans, already exist. We need a top-down measure to spark the realisation that ‘STEM is for everyone’ back into the classroom.

In science, role models are only mentioned
between KS2 and KS3, and of the 23 role
models mentioned, four of them are women.

Role models: bridging the gap

The quote ‘if you can see it, you can be it’ encapsulates the issue with the current UK curriculum content. We need to broaden who can pursue a career in STEM and challenge stereotypes and dominant ideas that have long excluded women and non-binary people.

Over the 10 years that Stemettes has spent working with young people, we’ve consistently noted that marginalised young people rarely see someone who looks like them thriving in the industry. Representation is important to create a sense of belonging for staff and students alike, reduce instances of bullying and mental health problems and reduce barriers to achievement.1

We need a mindset shift to allow more individuals to engage with and understand the depth behind issues of equity and social justice — in policy and practice — by using tools such as ‘The Equity Compass,’ developed by the YESTEM project.

An inclusive STEM future: collective efforts

Alongside curriculum reform, we also need to shift mindsets away from ‘mad, white, old scientist stereotypes’ and boost organisations championing diversity in STEM such as Tech Talent Charter and AFBE-UK. Working as a collective, we can achieve an inclusive future where STEM is for all.


[1] Pearson Diversity and Inclusion in Schools Report 2020

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