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Mothers Untapped Superpower To Get Daughters Into STEM Careers

· Only 7.6% of New Zealand women feel empowered to pursue a career in STEM

· Mothers are the greatest influence for girls, yet only 1 in 12 have a strong knowledge of STEM subjects

· Female STEM study halves from high school to tertiary level. Only 4.6% and 2.4% of women study STEM at

postgraduate and Masters/PhD levels

 New research reveals only 7.6% of New Zealand women feel empowered to pursue a career in Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM) – barely one in thirteen women.

While more younger women feel STEM is a career option (21%), one in ten New Zealand girls still feel pressure to choose a career “more fitting for a woman.”

Commissioned by Sunsilk as part of its Rethink Pink campaign, the research also shows the most important influence on a young woman is her mother. But New Zealand mums feel largely unequipped to support their daughters when it comes to STEM subjects, with only one in twelve (7.8%) having a strong understanding and knowledge of STEM subjects to pass on to their daughters.

Natalie Buckley, Research and Development Director, Sunsilk ANZ says the research shows that more support is required for young women and mothers to feel confident that STEM subjects are for them.

“What we see is that a lack of role models leads to a substantial drop-off in the participation of young girls in STEM study,” says Buckley.

After mothers (68.3%), secondary influences on young New Zealand women aged 16-25 are female social influencers (36.6%), followed by their sisters (32.2%).

The platforms this age group turns to for female inspiration are Instagram (64.4%), YouTube (44%) and Facebook (42%).

Buckley says Sunsilk conducted the research to raise awareness of the issues currently facing New Zealand women and to identify what may be holding young girls back in their pursuit of a STEM career.

Buckley continued: “The future is digital, we’ve known this for some time. As New Zealand and the world increasingly rely on science, technology, engineering and maths, we need to ensure our digital creations, platforms and systems reflect the preferences of our whole population. We need New Zealand women from a variety of backgrounds to contribute and feel they are a part of this creative process – for themselves and for the rest of us, too.”

To address the imbalance in STEM learning and careers, the majority of women surveyed feel that education and training, greater female empowerment and more nurturing of self-confidence are the most important changes needed in Aotearoa.

Fewer women pursuing STEM at tertiary level

The study also reveals that 58.5% of girls aged 16-25 believe there is a gender imbalance in STEM in New Zealand – both in schools and outside of them. This imbalance is reflected in tertiary study choices, with female STEM study dropping off from 41.5% in Year 12 to only 19.8% in higher (tertiary) education. This dramatically drops after undergraduate study, with only 4.6% and 2.4% of women studying STEM at a postgraduate and Masters/PhD respectively.

Despite the low numbers participating, 80% of women surveyed think STEM careers will be of increasing importance in the future.

STEM programme for mothers and daughters

To help New Zealand girls and their mums build their practical STEM skills and self-confidence, Sunsilk is launching its ‘Rethink Pink’ campaign, partnering with social enterprise, Girl Geek Academy to deliver a series of interactive online workshops in September and October 2021.

Free to join, participants will explore the science of hair, use tech to code a mother-daughter videogame, engineer their own shampoo bottle and use real world maths to “rethink pink” and smash gender stereotypes.

Girl Geek Academy Co-Founder Sarah Moran says: “Girl Geek Academy is on a mission to teach one million women technology skills by 2025. We are building a future where women play a crucial role in developing innovations and solutions that ultimately shape lives; our partnership with Sunsilk is another step toward that.”

Natalie Buckley, Sunsilk ANZ says : “Through Rethink Pink, we want to build the confidence of both mums and their daughters, and show STEM is accessible and achievable to everyone. STEM can be fun, relevant to daily life, and creative, and we want to help build a generation of young and older women who are inspired now, and into the future.”

Sunsilk invites girls and mums to visit and register their attendance for the Sunsilk x Girl Geek Academy STEM School Holiday Workshops. The workshops will be streamed live on YouTube, the second most-popular streaming service for girls, at 4:30pm on:

· Week 1

o Science: Tuesday 21 September

o Technology: Thursday 23 September

· Week 2

o Engineering: Tuesday 28 September

o Maths: Thursday 30 September

· Week 3 (NZ school holidays)

o Science: Tuesday 5 October

o Engineering: Thursday 7 October

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