Lack of inclusion in STEM must be addressed at source, says 3M

20
Confident STEM junior high school girls examine a DNA helix model. One of the students is pointing to something on the helix. The other student is taking notes in a spiral notebook.
  • 89% in the UAE agree there are barriers to students accessing a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, most significantly including access and affordability
  • 46% of the respondents in the UAE say being unable to afford a strong STEM education is a top barrier vs. 47% globally
  • More than half of the respondents in the UAE that do not work in STEM currently have considered pursuing a career in STEM, compared to 37% globally
  • 90% agree that the science community should do more to attract a diverse workforce and 73% believe women are leaving STEM roles due to a lack of support

Dubai, United Arab Emirates: The vast majority of respondents in the UAE (90%) believe it’s important to increase diversity and inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, according to 3M’s State of Science Index (SOSI). However, the majority (89%) agree that there are barriers standing in the way of students currently accessing a strong STEM education.

Now in its fifth iteration, this global survey tracks global attitudes towards science.

Barriers to entry

The Advanced Sciences Agenda and the Fourth Industrial Revolution strategy are one of the top two national strategic measures promulgated by the UAE government. In line with the UN’s new global education Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 4), ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,  leading UAE educational institutes and companies are promoting STEM education in order to nurture the country’s next generation of talent.

However, access and affordability are cited as the top barriers to STEM entry. 73% of those who respondent in the UAE say there is a lack of access to STEM including too few STEM educators/teachers or classes in school (36%) and a lack of internet access (22%). 46% in the UAE believe they are unable to afford a quality STEM education. A further 39% cite personal responsibilities such as earning money and providing for their family as the main obstacle. The data reflects an underlying perception amongst the residents of the UAE that STEM education has a high economic bar for entry.

“Addressing the disconnect between education and employment is a core pillar of 3M’s advocacy within STEM fields and we believe the private sector has an important role to play in broadening access to STEM opportunities for everyone,” said Laszlo Svinger, Vice President and Managing Director, 3M Middle East & Africa. “That is the driving factor behind 3M’s drive to raise the profile of STEM among students in primary and secondary education through sponsored programmes such as: 3M Science at Home launched with the KHDA’s Saturday Club at the Dubai Cares Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai as part of Expo Knowledge and Learning Week and the Science Wizards initiative around Sustainability Awareness across schools in the UAE. Through initiatives like these, we hope to begin that integration of STEM subjects and career building at an earlier stage and address the need for a STEM-skilled workforce.”

Broadening the talent pool

The majority (90%) of the respondents in the UAE believe science companies would have a greater positive impact on society if there was more diversity within their workforce. Specifically, 80% in the UAE agree that women are a source of untapped potential in the STEM workforce.

Yet, 73% say women are leaving STEM careers due to a lack of support, demonstrating there is tremendous room for improvement.

Svinger continues: “As in any career, representation matters. At 3M, we are encouraging greater recognition of the contributions of women in science and proactively engaging in mentorship programmes to show young women the way into STEM and the wealth of opportunities available to them. Through our partnership with The American Chamber of Commerce in Dubai (AmCham Dubai), we hosted a symposium on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) titled ‘The Design of Inclusion’ at the USA Pavilion located in the Opportunity District of Expo 2020 Dubai. The symposium featured a roundtable discussion on the future of inclusion, the collaborative role of government and corporations in advancing DEI, and a fireside chat on the inclusive workplace of the future.”

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is at the forefront of accomplishing United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as these fields are tools for implementing change. In order to reach this goal ahead of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 27th Conference of the Parties (COP 27), it is important that substantial importance is given to creating gender equality and providing quality education through customised programmes.  With just 59% of non-STEM workers having considered a career in STEM, far below the global average of 37%, more must be done to drive talent into STEM careers and to ensure UAE remains skilled and competitive in an increasingly science-led world.

About the State of Science Index 

The 3M State of Science Index is an annual study conducted for 3M by a global research firm. It surveys the general populations of 17 countries. Now in its fifth year, the survey tracks the public image of science revealing trend lines over time as to how much people trust, respect and value science and the role it plays in their lives. For more information about the 2022 State of Science Index results, please visit 3M.com/ScienceIndex

About 3M 

3M (NYSE: MMM) believes science helps create a brighter world for everyone. By unlocking the power of people, ideas and science to reimagine what’s possible, our global team uniquely addresses the opportunities and challenges of our customers, communities, and planet. Learn how we’re working to improve lives and make what’s next at 3M.com/news or on Twitter at @3M or @3MNews.