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International Women’s Day: Females still lag behind males in STEM education, ACT study says

While STEM jobs are plentiful—growing 10.5 percent from May 2009 to 2015—and accomplished workers are in high demand, female students continue to lag behind males in STEM education, according to research from ACT.

“Women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, but they are woefully underrepresented in STEM careers,” said ACT Chief Commercial Officer Suzana Delanghe said in a release.

While the non-profit organization's fifth annual STEM report, STEM Education in the U.S.: Where We Are and What We Can Do, cites “promising practices” meant to encourage all students interested in the field, “those practices are not enough,” said Delanghe. “We must accelerate efforts to engage and prepare girls and young women to pursue careers in STEM when they graduate from high school.”

The study, which drew from the two million 2017 graduating high school students who took the ACT, found that males and females have almost equal interest in STEM, 50 percent and 47 percent, respectively, but a gap yawns when it comes to overall readiness for college STEM courses. The disparity widens among those who are interested in STEM – 31 percent of males met the ACT's STEM Benchmark, an ACT STEM of 26, while only 22 percent of females do so.

“Clearly we have a lot of work to do” said Delanghe. “Encouraging young women to consider pursuing technically challenging careers must be on the top of educators' ‘to do' lists.” ACT noted that the computer sector alone would likely create in excess of 500,000 between 2014 to 2014.

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