Boys are no better than their female classmates in math or computer science at school. But after school, only a few girls decide to study tech. At the start of working life, the proportion of women falls even further.
Specialists in the fields of mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology (mint) are desperately needed. Despite the excellent career prospects and good earning potential, it is not possible to attract enough young people as offspring, also because women are reluctant to take up and successfully complete a degree in a mint subject.
Researchers at the consulting firm McKinsey have found that the misery is now even noticeably slowing down economic development. So far, 22 percent of jobs in this area in the EU member states are held by women. If we succeed in doubling the proportion of women in tech roles to up to 45 percent in 2027, Europe’s gross domestic product could increase by 260 billion to 600 billion euros.
According to this, the EU labor market will lack between 1.4 million and 3.9 million workers in the technology sector by 2027, in Germany alone 780,000. This increasing demand in Europe cannot be covered by today’s talent pool, which is predominantly male. “The lack of gender diversity in Europe’s technology landscape leads to significant disadvantages for employees, innovation and European society as a whole,” explained co-author Sven Blumberg.
In elementary and secondary education, there is no evidence that boys are better at math or computer science than their female classmates, said co-author and McKinsey consultant Melanie Krawina. But when it comes to enrolling in a MINT discipline at the university, there is “a first dramatic drop” to 38 percent. Accordingly, only 19 percent of young women opt for the technically oriented disciplines of information and communication technology.
The Federal Statistical Office also sees major problems with young people in the Mint subjects: According to statistics published on Tuesday, around 307,000 students in the first semester chose a subject from this area in the 2021 academic year, 6.5 percent fewer than in the previous year. The decline also has something to do with the general population statistics, because the numbers of 17 to 22-year-olds from the baby boom cohorts have long since fallen short of those of the 1960s.
According to the Destatis figures, Germany is still in a good position in an international comparison. In 2020, 35 percent of all Master’s and equivalent degrees were in a Mint subject – the highest proportion in the EU. But the numbers could be much higher if more women could be attracted to engineering subjects. The McKinsey study shows that the proportion of women in Germany is particularly low. While in Greece and Sweden their share among the graduates of the Mint bachelor’s degree is 41 percent, Germany comes to 22 percent.
The figures from the authority and from McKinsey are not directly comparable: Destatis also points to a lack of gender parity. According to official statistics, women are still less likely to opt for a university degree in STEM subjects than men. In recent years, the proportion of women among newcomers has increased slowly – from 30.8 percent in 2001 to 34.5 percent last year.
But you can also see from the Destatis numbers that only a few women want to deal with hardcore topics from the Mint area. The highest proportion of women in 2021 was in interior design (88.2 percent), and lowest in steel construction (2.2 percent). In IT, the proportion of women among the new enrollments was 21.8 percent.
Even the figures from the universities are sobering in terms of gender parity from the economic point of view. But after graduation, the proportion falls again. The McKinsey analysis shows that 23 percent of graduates take on a tech role when entering the workforce. For men, the figure is 44 percent. The consultants recommend companies to better promote women in the technology sector and, for example, to offer more flexible working models or better childcare.
Companies need to do a better job of retaining women and giving them a reason to stay in technology. The retention of female talent must be introduced as an important performance indicator for the evaluation of executives.
McKinsey consultant Krawina sees the main reasons for the unequal development in stereotypes and a misperception of girls’ Mint abilities compared to boys. “Girls are often considered to have lower STEM skills than boys.” Coupled with the influence of general stereotypes and the lack of female role models, these prejudices led to more pressure of expectations. At the same time, girls and women receive less support from teachers, fellow students or parents.