Girls experience ‘confidence drop’ in science and maths as they enter secondary education

Teenage girls in a classroom with one looking into a scientific microscope, girls in STEM concept


A recent L’Oréal survey reveals that girls experience a dip in science and math confidence as they transition to secondary education, with only 23% finding these subjects intuitive.

Girls experience a confidence low in science and maths subjects as they move to secondary education, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by L’Oréal, identified that girls experience a drop in confidence in science and maths subjects aged 11 to 13 years: a trend not seen in boys.

The survey also found that only 23% of girls in school Years 6 to 8 say that science and maths ‘comes naturally’ to them.

The findings come at a time when women still only make up less than a third (29.4%) of the UK STEM workforce, and recognition of women’s scientific achievements continues to be rare; with less than 4% of Nobel Prizes for science having ever been awarded to women.

Alongside seeing this confidence drop as girls embark on secondary education – and despite showing a strong interest in science (85% in Year 6 and 7) – as they progress through secondary school their engagement and love for science and maths subjects declines by nearly half: 44% year 6 to 23% year 10). This sharp decline comes at a critical age when young students are about to choose GSCE subjects – seeing girls face their first hurdle into STEM education and careers as early as 11 years old.

The insights also shed new light on what can help to encourage confidence in girls. It is widely accepted that well-known figures or celebrities can act as role models for young people, but for science and maths, the L’Oréal survey findings show that when girls have real life or relatable role models their confidence in science and maths subjects is much higher.

In Year 6 to 8, girls who know an adult who works in a science or maths related job are 75% more likely to be confident in studying science than those who don’t.

Speaking about the findings, Dame Anne Glover, Chair of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Jury said, “As a scientist, I know just how exciting, creative and rewarding a career in science can be.”

“We need the very best minds working in science.”

The recent findings from the L’Oréal UK survey serve as a compelling reminder of the importance of supporting and empowering girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and to become the future leaders who will drive innovation and change our world for the better.” 

As a company founded by a scientist over 100 years ago, L’Oréal is committed to supporting a strong talent pipeline of women in STEM and recognises the vital importance of women being part of solving the challenges of tomorrow.

L’Oréal has supported women in STEM for over 25 years through the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science partnership, which offers Fellowships to encourage the contribution of women pursuing their STEM research careers.

The 2023 For Women In Science Awards will be announced on 24th April in the House of Commons, spotlighting the next rising stars in STEM. L’Oréal is calling on everyone to be a ‘STEMinist’ by continuing to raise awareness of the need to encourage more girls to choose STEM careers



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