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To think young women should consider future income and career prospects when choosing their degree?

(283 Posts)
strengthandhonor Mon 08-Jan-18 08:42:54

I post on a student forum and I see the same discussions again and again : boys talk about how much income and prospects a certain career will provide them with or what is the future of that industry while girls are all about following their passion and treat ''uni'' as a life experience with little or nothing to do with future employment prospects. No wonder the gender wage gap is still here and shows no sign of going away.

Countries like India, China and even Iran have far better results in getting girls into science, engineering and other lucrative degrees than say places like Sweden or Norway . So how can countries that year after year are trumpeted as the most gender equal societies on the planet have such awful outcomes especially when compared to medieval type patriarchies ? Why does reducing the social factors cause such imbalance in outcomes instead of equalizing them? What are we doing wrong as parents and as a society?

RavingRoo Mon 08-Jan-18 08:46:46

Asia can get more women studying STEM but they have problems getting women to work in STEM. There was an article recently about how Asia has the most highly qualified (STEM) housewife population on the planet.

SaskiaRembrandtWasFramed Mon 08-Jan-18 09:05:38

What are we doing wrong as parents and as a society?

We're encouraging girls to study subjects they are genuinely interested in, and to see higher education as an end in itself rather than expensive vocational training. We should be doing the same for boys. 18 is far too early to decide what you want to do with next 50-60 years of your life, and university should be the time when young people figure that out.

I used to work in STEM, from my experience, encouraging more girls to want to pursue careers in those fields should be happening long before university. We live in a society where maths, science, technology, engineering are still pushed as 'boys' subjects at primary and secondary level. This is replicated throughout society. If we want more girls in STEM, they need to grow up seeing women performing those roles, being interested in those subjects.

strengthandhonor Mon 08-Jan-18 09:12:18

So what is stopping western girls from studying these degrees when not only they live in the most gender equal societies on Earth but they can also take advantage of female only scholarships, programs, company quotas etc. This isn't India or Iran, nobody will force them to be SAHM's.

My home country in Eastern Europe has an almost nonexistent gender pay gap in the private sector while in the UK it's about 25% last time I heard. This is a country with almost no welfare and a society that make the UK look like a feminist utopia (I don't even remember hearing the word ''feminism'' in my country more than once or twice) . And another fun fact I remember reading years ago : only one third of Ivy league female graduates work full time with many not working at all.

It's almost like flattening social factors ''compels'' women to make the most stereotypical feminine choices, instead of having the opposite effect and create equality of outcomes.

BetterWithCake Mon 08-Jan-18 09:14:51

I had a conversation with a friend about this recently. She was just thinking about the presents her DTs boy and a girl were given for Christmas - the boy got Lego, science kit and a snap circuits kit but the girl got glitter pens, lots of unicorn themed things and craft stuff. Nothing wrong with this if that’s what each child asked for but the assumptions start early on that boys are into science and building things and girls are into unicorns and stuff.

BetterWithCake Mon 08-Jan-18 09:17:25

And in response to you OP, I think everyone should think long and hard about future career prospects when applying for a degree.

ColonelJackONeil Mon 08-Jan-18 09:19:23

Why is STEM and its related jobs valued so much more than other equally useful subjects? Could it be something to do with a lot of men working in those areas?

stevie69 Mon 08-Jan-18 09:20:18

Countries like India, China and even Iran have far better results in getting girls into science, engineering

I'm sure that might be true. But some of us have no desire to go into science and engineering and don't want coercing into doing so.

I work with engineers. Friggin loads of 'em—and some are quite surprised when they find out that I chose my career and didn't slip into it as a result of somehow failing to become an engineer. Or a scientist blush

Justanothernameonthepage Mon 08-Jan-18 09:21:01

By not harshly segregating boys and girls toys is a start (girls are routinely steered away from 'technical toys' which are seen as boy toys) leading to them seeing toys that encourage stem as boys. And the STEM girl science toys all seem to become makeup related rather than anything else.
By covering more female STEM figures (Lovelace, Marie Curie, Mary Anning) before age 13.
Making it normal for children of all sexes to have wider interests without being told that's 'girly/for boys'.
But from a STEM ambassador pov, in schools from age 14, the girls have already got their career paths thought about (although not always through university) and boys mostly haven't. From what I have seen, are then encouraged into high earning potential careers by parents who want them to start thinking about the future

fluentInIrrelevantItalian Mon 08-Jan-18 09:21:09

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RavingRoo Mon 08-Jan-18 09:23:22

Asian universities often base their intakes on results. So it’s about prestige usually rather than a desire to study STEM. So STEM degrees need higher results, and non-STEM degrees are usually thought of as ‘lesser’ options. In some countries like Pakistan a woman is encouraged to study a degree in a similar subject to attract the type of man she hopes to marry (so doctors to doctors, IT to IT), but is often actively encouraged never to work.

In the UK the emphasis is on what kids want to do as a career post university, with the degree being used to leverage this. If you want to work in banking or academia, a numerate social sciences degree like economics or business or management will often give you more options. Women tend to be less risk averse and I can see them taking more generalist qualifications to facilitate this.

stevie69 Mon 08-Jan-18 09:24:03

Women are definitely under represented in my area of work. Have to agree with that. However, those that are there have chosen to be there and seem to love it.

My personal experience—albeit based on a sample size of precisely one—is of a friend who studied Electrical/Electronic Engineering at University after having been 'guided' down that path by the WISE initiative (Women Into Science and Engineering) for those not around in the 1980s. She's now an accountant.

geekone Mon 08-Jan-18 09:24:57

Actually STEM jobs especially science are not highly paid jobs in the U.K. In comparison to say accounting or Finance. It is also difficult getting ahead as in a laboratory you can only go so far before you are in management. I did a science degree and one that gave me different science options then a PhD and the jobs available after both of those were £16k a year basic lab jobs maybe that's more to do with geography but friends who did maths and law were earning more than me very quickly and when I did progress I ended up in sales so I don't think STEM jobs are appreciated more than others in the Uk.

strengthandhonor Mon 08-Jan-18 09:27:49


Law and medicine were also seen as ''male careers'' no further than 2 generations ago and nowadays we have parity in those fields (if anything there are more women than men and the female number goes up every year). How many would have wanted a female doctor or lawyer 60 years ago? How many female PC's were patrolling the streets back then? I can't think of a more ''masculine'' job than policeman on the beat. Now they are everywhere.

And we're not talking just about STEM here, but all lucrative jobs. Women would rather have a low paying job they love than a high paying one they don't. Plus they value their life quality more... probably why male entrepreneurs make twice as much on average than female ones. And then we have women like Marissa Mayer who went back to work 2 weeks after giving birth. Net worth : USD $540 million.

fantasmasgoria1 Mon 08-Jan-18 09:28:10

I would encourage anyone to study vocational degrees in the main unless a person had x particular flair for something. Stem subjects very important and should be encouraged. But I know people with media, geography and photography degrees who never found a job in those areas and ended up taking min wage jobs. One has now trained as a nurse!

Ifailed Mon 08-Jan-18 09:29:35

I think an awful lot of young women and men now go to 'uni' with no real idea of what they want to do when they leave with a crippling debt (in England), its now seen as the normal thing to do, go and have fun whilst doing a bit of studying on the side.

It's notable that 'uni' is sold as an important milestone in life, for learning life-skills and independence, but somehow young adults who don't go and do an apprenticeship or something similar don't need to go and live in another city for 3 years.

TimeforCupcakes Mon 08-Jan-18 09:29:44

Why would you want to force anyone to study a subject or an area they have no interest in? If everyone studies STEM subjects then that means other areas get overlooked. I think everyone should think long and hard about their career choice.

UnitedKungdom Mon 08-Jan-18 09:33:05

I totally agree with you. I think girls are still set up to need a man in life. Not many can afford to have children and go it alone on their salaries. It's even encouraged for girls to enter nursing, nursery working, retail, beauty therapy, assistants jobs etc. None of which lead to enough money to be secure as a parent without state or male support. It's all fine till a woman wants to start a family and then her choices go out the window, especially if 2 or more children.

AlonsosLeftPinky Mon 08-Jan-18 09:34:28

I'm an engineer and a mentor for young girls at local schools who have an interest in STEM. Part of that entails going in to local schools and running workshops. Its extremely difficult as it's often people in their mid teens, whereas younger people don't have preconceived ideas yet and are more open to different subjects.

strengthandhonor Mon 08-Jan-18 09:41:03

On the LEGO theory : you don't think girls are pinkified to death in China or my home country?And far more in terms of social expectations during young age and later in life. I know when school starts or ends everyday just by observing the sea of pink that floods the streets. I only see boys in my local LEGO store yet somehow the mall it's in was built by female engineers almost exclusively (with a couple of guys in the background of the photo from their FB page) .I mean FGS the West looks like a STAR TREK feminist utopia compared to the countries are mentioned.

Zaphodsotherhead Mon 08-Jan-18 09:41:12

I have friends with STEM degrees who work in shops, do cleaning etc simply because they've ended up as single mothers and need the flexibility in hours those jobs offer. It's great having a high powered, highly paid STEM job, but when it's pressurised, long hours and requires a reactive approach, whilst being more highly paid to reflect that, it just doesn't allow for sick kids at home and no help.

fluentInIrrelevantItalian Mon 08-Jan-18 09:43:33

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BashStreetKid Mon 08-Jan-18 09:45:58

I did a degree that led directly to my current occupation, largely because my parents made it very clear to me that my preferred option, history, would go down like a cup of cold sick. I still wish that I'd done it, not least because now that I'm in the relevant occupation I can see that whether you have my specific degree or not makes zero difference to your career prospects and earning power.

CrazyExIngenue Mon 08-Jan-18 09:46:30

Having been working with women in STEM in the Middle East for the past 10 years, I can tell you, at least from a Gulf female point of view, that the entire way they approach women & education and the sciences is the exact opposite of the way they approach it in the UK.

Women are encouraged and told from a young age to pursue careers in science and maths. They are told that girls are better at maths then boys.

And, at least in the UAE & Qatar, they are told that working full time in fields that boost the economy and contribute the to nations growth is their duty. And generally, the government supports initiatives and laws that make a comfortable work environment for women possible. All government & private companies over so much must have a nursery in them, education is heavily subsidized for nationals, including university education, and they get loads of bonuses and perks.

Also, culturally, STEM careers and higher education are considered "safe" for women, in that they are generally working in offices, labs or classrooms with plenty of other women, and not in the field or in "dangerous jobs" where they are constantly coming in contact with strange men.

LyraPotter Mon 08-Jan-18 09:48:08

I think it depends what you mean by 'focusing on careers' - STEM isn't the only route into a well-paying job. I studied law at university and my course was roughy 60% female and 40% male. My first degree was English literature and that was about a 50% split - not dominated by women at all. And every friend from my English degree, male and female, now has a job that pays well. Some are very well paid indeed (editors, journalists, a charity CEO etc). I believe medicine is also a field which attracts equal numbers of male and female students.

You're right that we need more women in STEM, but I don't think you can extrapolate from that that men are sensible and career focused whereas women are short sighted and just looking for a good time at Uni.

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