How girls are discouraged from becoming engineers

D'après Margot Lecoeur, présidente de la fédération Des Territoires aux Grandes Ecoles, des professeures encouragent moins les lycéennes que leurs homologues masculins à rejoindre des filières en ingénierie.

Posted Oct 11, 2022 5:55 PMUpdated Oct 11, 2022, 6:05 PM

Secondary education programs in France for girls have only been identical to those for boys since 1924. Since then, they have had access to the same higher education, and girls today represent 56% of the student community.

At university and in CPGE (preparatory classes for the Grandes Ecoles), young women are even in the majority in biology, chemistry, life sciences and health1. In appearance, therefore, female catch-up has taken place in science subjects.

In appearance only, because this finding is nuanced by the low enrollment of girls in maths, physics, engineering sciences and in computer science and mechanics courses.

The average enrollment rate for girls in engineering school has hardly increased between 2016 and 2021 (28% and 28.7%). Hélène Rouchy, member of the Cantal Grandes Ecoles, joined the Mines de Saint-Etienne in 2018, where the rate of girls was then 23%. She specifies that “It was celebrated. The following year, 27%! But then that rate dropped to 15%. »

A discouraging speech heard in high school

Present in 52 French departments, the members of the federation Des Territoires aux Grandes Ecoles have noticed a decline in girls’ lack of confidence in their ability to succeed in engineering studies. If associations, companies and schools themselves are trying to increase the number of women in their workforce, another lever is still not sufficiently exploited.

It is located upstream. That is, in high school. It is located in the too often discouraging speeches of the teaching body.

If the researchers Cendrine Marro and Françoise Vouillot have shown the difficulties girls have in identifying with the professional image of the “scientist” 2the teaching staff does not yet sufficiently encourage high school girls to join the IS (engineering sciences) streams and even less the scientific CPGEs. “Go, but after two months you will leave. It’s good to have good grades in terminale but that doesn’t mean you’ll make it.” we said to Lola Blandin, member of the Haute-Saône at the Grandes Ecoles and now a graduate of ENSTA Paris.

The occupational image of the health and biology sectors corresponds more to the representations associated with women. Many have asked Claire Raulin, member of the Tarn at the Grandes Ecoles and now a graduate of ISAE-SUPAERO, why she did not choose the health sectors because “When you’re a woman, it’s anchored in the collective unconscious that you’ll choose care professions. They expected me to do medicine. »

Fewer decision-making positions

As president of the federation Des Territoires aux Grandes Ecoles, I draw attention to the too often minimized impact of these speeches in the trajectories of high school girls. For those who come from a rural environment, they are an additional barrier to geographical distance.

I invite high school teachers to encourage those who have the potential and the desire to join the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) streams after the baccalaureate because the unequal access to engineering or related positions widens the inequality between women and men in the professional world. Even today, they do not have the same career trajectories, the same salaries and the same responsibilities, with women occupying decision-making positions less often.

Girls’ rights are entirely linked to this issue. They start with access to the same educational advice and encouragement as boys. They start where the “You are strong in all subjects, why do you want to study engineering? »a question posed to Lola, and to many others.

1 Data from these files: Main diplomas and training courses prepared in public establishments under the supervision of the Ministry in charge of Higher Education

2“Self-representation, representation of the scientist-type and choice of a scientific orientation for girls and boys in second year”, C. Marro, F. Vouillot, 1991.

Margot Lecoeur, president of the federation Des Territoires aux Grandes Ecoles

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