Can Female STEM Tutors Inspire Their Pupils into STEM Careers?

Alice Farrell

May 10, 2018

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New research has shown that girls are more likely to seek a female tutor than a male tutor to help them with their studies. The research was conducted following the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11 and as part of the United Kingdom government's 2018 Year of Engineering.

MyTutor has delivered over 100,000 tutorials, and data scientists reviewing this database have analyzed how female pupils approach tuition in STEM. The results of the study show female students show a strong preference for female tutors over male tutors when receiving tuition in STEM subjects. This outcome suggests female pupils are seeking out female role models when selecting STEM tutors.

Female grades in STEM subjects are on par with male grades. However, girls are less likely to enter STEM A-levels or degrees. This fact is thought to be due in part to negative stereotypes suggesting girls are less equipped for scientific roles.

The shortage of females in STEM might also be due to a lack of female teachers and professors who can act as role models for young women in STEM. Evidence suggests some female students are seeking out these female role models for themselves.
Shruti Verma, a tutor for MyTutor, is earning a PhD in biomedical engineering and teaches math and physics in her spare time.

"It makes a difference to have people close to your age tutoring you. It's one thing seeing women in STEM who are your parents' age, but with people close to your age, you can identify with them more and ask them questions you wouldn't ask adults."

“There are a number of talented, young, female scientists who lack academic role models. I'm delighted that our tutors are able to fill that gap," James Grant, co-founder of MyTutor, says.

Last year, only 25% of graduates with a core STEM degree were women�"a figure that has remained stagnant over the past four years. This figure has had a knock-on effect on the proportion of females in STEM professions; just 13% of those working in STEM occupations are women. These statistics partially explain today's gender pay gap. STEM graduates earn nearly 20% more than their peers.

By providing more female role models and tutors for young women interested in STEM, we can begin to buck this trend.

Alice first developed her interest in education by getting involved in a range of university access programs while studying biology at Oxford. After graduation, she flirted briefly with the pharmaceutical industry before joining MyTutor. At MyTutor, she works on the schools' team, supporting tutors and helping give students better access to one-on-one support.

In her spare time, Alice enjoys reading, watching movies, and occasionally playing football.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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