More than two thirds (68%) of the 2,986 adults asked quoted Marie Curie as the most recognisable female role model in science. The Polish scientist has been dead for more than 80 years. Twelve percent quoted male British engineer Isambard Brunel as the most prominent female scientist.
The report, Through Both Eyes, shows the number of girls taking up physics at A-Level in the UK has not risen for 20 years. This has contributed to the country having the lowest proportion of female engineers of any EU state.
Anna Zecharia, neuroscientist at Imperial College London and director of ScienceGrrl, told HR magazine the desire for change is there in many sectors.
"It's not just about will, it's more to do with scale," she said. "People have run programmes like this for years but if feels like every time schools and companies have to start from scratch."
Zecharia also highlighted the need for different approaches for different subjects. For physics, the problems are at the start of careers, with not enough women getting into the areas in further education or in entry-level jobs.
For subjects such as biology there is a high uptake for women but they tend to drop out further along the career path. This means we need an "all point approach" to the problem, not just an attempt to throw a blanket over the problem in the hope of solving it.
HR magazine is partnering with Business in the Community (BITC) for a panel debate on increasing diversity in STEM jobs, and how diversity leads to innovation.
The panel is part of BITC's Responsible Business Week 2014 and takes place on Wednesday 2 April at 11am, at the Barbican in London.
HR magazine readers can find out more and register for free via this link.