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Gender gaps are closing in maths and science

16 December 2008

Gender gaps are closing in maths and science

IPENZ considers there are some positives to be taken from a recently released international survey outlining New Zealand children’s achievement in maths and science.

“The recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study shows there is no difference between Year Five boys and girls that do actually meet the international benchmarks in maths and science, dispelling past records that boys are good at maths and science while girls at English,” says Dr Andrew Cleland, Chief Executive of the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand (IPENZ). “This trend of girls catching up with boys in technical subjects is reflected in our 2008 IPENZ Women in Engineering survey where more than 20 percent of all New Zealand engineering graduates are now women”

“Women engineers are on the rise in New Zealand with the percentage of professional women engineers having doubled over the last three censuses from 4% in 1996 to 8% in 2006. With 20% of all graduates now women it won’t be long before they have that percentage in the workplace which is seen as the threshold for minorities in the work place to feel they have a presence and are collectively making a difference,” says Dr Cleland.

“Although the international survey shows our primary school kids need more help in maths and science, at least it is not a gender problem. In the high achievers range both girls and boys are at the same level. IPENZ has been working very hard in recent years with their Futureintech Ambassadors in schools programme, where young recently graduated engineers, scientists and technologists go into primary and secondary schools across the country, teaching and inspiring kids about engineering and technology, and encouraging them to take maths and science,” he says

“Incidentally the international survey reported New Zealand primary schools having the second highest incidence of bullying in the world. Our 2008 Women in Engineering survey reported a relatively low incidence of work place harassment and bullying compared to studies overseas with more than 70 per cent of women engineers either satisfied or very satisfied with their work place culture and with the attitudes and behaviour of engineering colleagues, and that is in a professional where men outnumber women by 10 to one.”

“Our survey found most of the women who leave engineering profession depart because they are going overseas and this is probably due to the fact that 73% of our women engineers are young - aged between 25-40 years of age, so they are doing in their overseas experience. The survey shows most of the women re-enter the engineering profession on their return to New Zealand.”


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