University, technology and science still remain male fields

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An increasingly digital future requires adequate skills but current training, particularly for women, is unable to keep up with the race of innovation. Global challenges, such as the ecological transition and digitalisation, require advanced scientific-technological knowledge, however the number of Italian female students in these subjects remains at a standstill. In 2021-22, only 37% of Stem students were female, unchanged for the past 10 years. Furthermore, despite better educational careers, the employment rate after completing studies is lower than for men. The picture emerges from the 3rd report of the Stem Observatory promoted by the Deloitte Foundation and the Deloitte Public Policy Programme, previewed by Sole 24Ore. Launched in 2020, the study analyzes the technical-scientific training context, investigates the orientations of students, companies and the main barriers that hinder access to education.

In Italy, STEM tertiary education courses continue to be undertaken by a minority of students. From the 2012-13 academic year to 2021-22, the percentage of STEM students increased by just one percentage point, from 26 to 27%. Not only is the general figure stable, but a strong gender gap remains. The socio-cultural, gender and learning opportunity gaps, visible from the early years of school, translate into a lower acquisition of mathematical and scientific skills of female students and this gap is projected over the years up to the academic choice. Therefore, although girls are the majority of the Italian university student population (they were 56% in the year 2021-22), they constitute only 37% of the total in STEM degrees. A figure that has remained unchanged in the last 10 years but is better than the average of nine other European countries analyzed by Deloitte, equal to 31%. Various factors influence the academic choices of female students: ranging from gender stereotypes to poor orientation to the lack of female role models.

The average data then hides significant differences between different Stem clusters. Women are in fact present above all in courses in the scientific area, where they constitute 58% of the total, and in Architecture and Civil Engineering, where they are 46%, while they are still a small minority in Industrial and Information Engineering (23 %) and in IT and ICT Technologies (15%), a field which in turn is even more niche.

Despite being fewer in number, female STEM students achieve better results both in terms of grades and regularity in their studies. By analyzing the conversion rate of students into graduates over the last 6 years, Deloitte highlights how, on average, in each cluster the best performance is that of female students. Even in ICT, where they are present in a clear minority, the female success rate is higher than that of their male colleagues. Furthermore, the average graduation grade is higher (104.2 out of 110, compared to 102.3 for men, Almalaurea data) and success in terms of regularity in studies is also better: among women, 58% have completed their studies on schedule compared to 53% of men.

However, superior university performance is not enough for women to ensure an equal presence in the world of work, so much so that, 5 years after obtaining the second level qualification, the employment rate is 91%, compared to 94% for men.

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