Third of girls do not think they are ‘smart enough’ to become scientists

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Photo: iStock

Almost a third of girls at secondary school enjoy science the most but many do not think they are clever enough to become a scientist.

The finding has come from research launched alongside the new #PrettyCurious campaign, which aims to introduce teenage girls to STEM role-models with whom they can identify.

The study also found that 13 per cent of girls believe that companies which employ scientists would prefer to hire men.

The research involved more than 2,150 students, boys and girls, aged 11 to 16 and found that science was the third most popular subject for girls, with 28 per cent saying they enjoyed science the most. The most popular subjects for girls were art and design and English. Furthermore, almost 40 per cent of the girls said they had performed the best in science during the last year.

However, despite these findings, 32 per cent of the girls said they were not “smart enough” to become scientists, and only four per cent said they would want to pursue a career in engineering – this compares to 20 per cent of the male respondents.

Only a third of the girls said they knew someone female who worked in a science and engineering-based job and when asked to name “inspirational scientists” they largely listed famous men, including Stephen Hawking (named by 21 per cent) and Einstein (18 per cent).

In fact, the only two female inspirational scientists named by the 1,000-plus female respondents were Marie Curie (named by 12 per cent) and Rosalind Franklin (one per cent).

The research comes alongside the launch of EDF Energy’s #PrettyCurious campaign which is aimed to introduce girls to role-models that have had varied and rewarding careers in STEM.

The role-models have helped to created online content to engage girls in STEM opportunities and three pilot STEM challenge events are taking place (next Thursday, October 15, in London, on November 3 in Glasgow and on November 25 in Bristol). A digital version of the challenges will also be available.

For more information on the campaign, visit


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