Boys twice as likely as girls to aspire to science

17 January 2011

Boys are twice as likely as girls to aspire to work in science, a survey for the Royal Society of Chemistry has found.

Working in a scientific environment was the number one aspiration for boys and girls combined, but while science was most appealing for boys (24%) it came only fourth for girls (12%), behind working in a zoo (19%), a TV studio (17%) and a classroom (13%).

The finding comes as the UN International Year of Chemistry begins with a worldwide handshake of women scientists.

Breakfast prelaunch events around the world will 'pass the baton' through the time zones, as eminent women scientists share a chemical moment in time.

The online survey, carried out by Ipsos MORI, showed that boys and girls are equally encouraged by their teachers to study science, but girls are still more likely to want to work in a TV studio.

Professor Carole Perry, chair of Heads of Chemistry UK and a member of the RSC Council, said: "These survey results show a great equalisation in classrooms. Not too long ago there was a clear bias against encouraging girls to study science, but thankfully that bias appears to have been eliminated.

"However, while it's fantastic that science is the number one aspiration for a teenage boy, the fact remains more girls would like to work in a TV studio than with science. That's not from a bias in influence from teachers or parents, as the survey shows, so who else is altering the aspirations of these girls?

"This year, the UN's International Year of Chemistry, we're recognising the huge role women scientists have played in the world. By sharing a chemical moment in time with women around the world, I hope we demonstrate to the young women out there that a career in science is challenging and rewarding."

Female scientists around the world can join in with the celebrations through Twitter - the hashtag #chemhandshake will join up those having breakfast and celebrating chemistry between 08:00 and 10:00 in all time zones.

The London event will be chaired by Professor Helen Fielding, an RSC Council member. Professor Fielding recorded her thoughts on the origins of her interest in chemistry, and these will be played at the breakfast event in Beijing along her asking the same questions to the Chinese scientists. They in turn will record their messages to be played at the London breakfast.

One of the main aims of the International Year of Chemistry is to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women to science. 2011 is the centenary anniversary of the awarding of Marie Curie's Nobel prize in chemistry, for the discovery of radium and polonium.

Technical Note
505 young people aged 11 to 16 years living in GB were interviewed by Ipsos MORI online between 7th Jan and 12th Jan 2011, the data was not weighted.

Related Link

Women Sharing a Chemical Moment in Time

Women Sharing a Chemical Moment in Time is an opportunity to celebrate Marie Curie's achievements in the context of young women scientists today.

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