Why is Russia so good at encouraging women into tech?

So relatively few women go on to choose engineering or technology as a career. Why?

A new study from Microsoft sheds some light.

Based on interviews with 11,500 girls and young women across Europe, it finds their interest in these subjects drops dramatically at 15, with gender stereotypes, few female role models, peer pressure and a lack of encouragement from parents and teachers largely to blame.

Not so in Russia.

According to Unesco, 29% of people in scientific research worldwide are women, compared with 41% in Russia. In the UK, about 4% of inventors are women, whereas the figure is 15% in Russia.

Russian girls view Stem far more positively, with their interest starting earlier and lasting longer, says Julian Lambertin, managing director at KRC Research, the firm that oversaw the Microsoft interviews.

“Most of the girls we talked to from other countries had a slightly playful approach to Stem, whereas in Russia, even the very youngest were extremely focused on the fact that their future employment opportunities were more likely to be rooted in Stem subjects.”

These girls cite parental encouragement and female role models as key, as well as female teachers who outnumber their male colleagues presiding over a curriculum viewed as gender neutral.

The differences don’t stop there.

When the Department for Education asked a cross-section of British teenagers for their views on maths and physics, five words summed up the subjects’ image problem: male, equations, boring, formulaic, irrelevant.

But no such stigma exists in Russia, says Mr Lambertin.

“They’ve really gone beyond that,” he says. “People are expected to perform well in these subjects regardless of gender.”

 

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