"EngineeringUK" review effective ways to bring girls into STEM

According to a recent EngineeringUK report, despite an uptick in female participation in STEM careers globally, a significant gender gap persists in representation. Specifically, in engineering and technology fields, women make up only 16.5% of the workforce1. Evidence shows that this disparity starts early – while 62.5% of boys aged 11 to 18 report an interest in taking up a career in engineering, only 38.5% of girls say the same2. The report underscores the ongoing necessity to cultivate girls' interest in STEM professions from an early age. However, it poses the question: what strategies effectively address this disparity?

EngineeringUK sought to answer that question with its publication of a rapid evidence review in June 20233. This review looked at evidence from around the world on various interventions that aim to increase girls’ aspirations for careers in engineering and technology. In doing so, they were able to draw out some themes and approaches that made particular interventions effective.

The full review - comprising of 40 research papers from across 10 countries including the USA, Australia, Japan, Turkey and the UK – examined interventions spanning several different STEM disciplines and multiple delivery methods. The most common setting for these interventions was the classroom, but interventions delivered through summer camps, external STEM clubs and workshops, or competitions were also among those reviewed.

The learnings from the review were widespread and varied, but offered some great tips for anyone hoping to design an intervention to encourage girls into STEM:

  • Engage girls early - stereotypes around gender and careers, as well as attitudes to STEM, begin to set in at a young age. Fun, interactive activities which are tailored to the experiences of primary-aged girls are more likely to have the biggest impact when it comes to challenging those attitudes.
  • Be conscious of gender stereotypes when designing outreach programmes – although often well-intentioned, the over-use of ‘Pink tech’ (technology products or activities using stereotypically feminine designs or themes in an attempt to appeal to girls) can be more damaging as it reinforces gender stereotypes. Actively seeking to understand girls’ needs, interests and preferences when it comes to STEM can help to design an intervention which will actually work for them.

  • Upskill facilitators, mentors and others involved in delivering the programme – effective interventions are delivered by facilitators who have received training on gender-inclusive pedagogy and who are confident in creating a welcoming and encouraging environment for girls. Similarly, mentors need training and support to be able to effectively connect with young people.
  • Carefully consider who is used as a role model – role models who have similar characteristics, backgrounds or experiences to their students, as well as those closer in age, are likely to have the greatest impact. Role model relationships are most effective if they are longer-term and speak openly about challenges as well as successes, in language appropriate for the students’ age and level.
  • Support students to understand their next steps – effective interventions expose young people to a range of career roles in the field and support them to understand how to get there, including by highlighting how the skills they are learning can be applied to their future careers in STEM. Involving third parties such as local companies, universities and training providers can help bring real-world insights into what a future in STEM might look like for young girls.
  • Summer camps can be an effective way of reinforcing positive attitudes towards STEM – although often costly and intensive, summer camps can provide excellent opportunities for girls to be immersed in activities focused on engineering and technology, while being able to meet and collaborate with peers who share their aspirations. However, it is important to recognise and try to mitigate the barriers which may prevent students from underrepresented groups from accessing a summer camp.

1 Trends in the engineering workforce. EngineeringUK (2023)

2 Engineering Brand Monitor. EngineeringUK (2022)

3 Rapid evidence review: Interventions to increase girls’ aspirations for engineering and technology careers. Engineering UK (2023)


Girls come out on top in NXplorers UAE competition

Eight schools from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah qualified for the NXplorers final competition event that was held at the Shell offices in the World Trade Center in Dubai. The three winning teams were all female.
Read more
SCP 3441

NXplorers students shine in India's STEM landscape

NXplorers students in India are winning STEM competitions with projects like a Crop Monitoring System and Proxy Fertilizer, alongside participating in prestigious events like the INSPIRE awards.
Read more
13238 Shell N Xplorers Quarterly Newsletter Global Highlight 2

Shell NXplorers Programme Impact Report 2023

Read our latest NXplorers Impact Report to find out what young people and their teachers had to say about the impact the programme has had in 2023.
Read more