Survey: Women More Interested in STEM but Feel Less Prepared

In a survey among Generation Z individuals, women and girls came across as less certain about innovative technologies such as robots and self-driving cars than men and boys, but they're more intent on learning about the subjects that lead to those innovations. The research project was undertaken by Quizlet, an education technology company that produces an online study service.

The company worked with a market research firm to survey 1,000 people in the United States born between the years of 1993 and 2004 — roughly the same period associated with Gen Zers, individuals who are 13 to 24 years old.

The results showed that Gen Z female students felt less prepared for the future of work involving artificial intelligence, robots or self-driving cars than male counterparts. While one in three Gen Z women felt "unequipped" to tackle future career prospects due to a lack of understanding about technologies like robots, AI and self-driving cars, only one in four male respondents felt the same way.

Yet, when Quizlet examined its own data generated from customer usage of the study service, female students were more likely to be studying science, technology, engineering or math subjects than male students. While male students studied STEM-related subjects about 20 percent of the time, female students were doing so 30 percent of the time. The biggest subject for study was "science," followed by "medical."

Also, while 55 percent of female respondents said they've learned about robotics in their classes, 70 percent of male respondents said the same.

Self-driving cars are of interest, yet just 54 percent of Gen Z students of both genders said they were learning about that technology in courses; nearly three-quarters (74 percent) wish they had.

Artificial intelligence, which is expected to have a massive impact in multiple segments of work, is less compelling to students right now. Three in 10 survey respondents said they weren't interested in learning more about AI. What was of greater interest were virtual reality, 3D/holograms, drones, self-driving cars and the "Internet of Things."

"The world is changing so quickly, and the tools and technology prevalent in the workplace today may be obsolete by the time Gen Z arrives in the office — or they may look quite similar," noted CEO Matthew Glotzbach in a blog post about the survey. "While it's difficult to predict the pace of innovation in the workforce, it's encouraging to see the enthusiasm students have for learning about these new technologies, and the speed at which teachers have found ways to incorporate information about them into the classroom. The more interest students have, and the more opportunities teachers take to introduce new themes and ideas around the future of work, the better off students will be when they get there."

Quizlet's flagship product, Quizlet Learn, gives students and educators a way to access a collection of materials — "study sets" — for review. Those can be created by the user or pulled from Quizlet's own massive collection, which includes sets developed by the company as well as those made public by the users. The program creates a study plan with practice reminders and uses adaptive techniques to show the learner those materials least understood. All the innovations referenced in the survey are included in the company's study sets.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.