Government calls to tackle girls’ perception of STEM subjects

By February 20, 2019 Press Releases

School Standards Minister, Nick Gibb MP, has called on teachers, parents and society to challenge misconceptions some girls have about STEM subjects. The announcement follows research published by the Department for Education on attitudes of students aged 15 to 16.

The number of girls studying STEM A Levels has risen by 26 per cent since 2010, accounting for 43 per cent of all STEM A Level entries in 2018.[1] However, this research shows girls are still substantially less likely than boys to consider taking STEM subjects at A Level.

Additional key findings of the research includes:

  • Girls enjoy STEM subjects less than boys
  • Girls are less likely to say STEM is their best subject
  • Boys are more likely to think STEM leads to a job
  • Girls and boys both name STEM as leading to highest paid jobs

The Government’s announcement also references research conducted by the Home Office. It found 60 per cent of the roles on its shortage list are in the STEM sector, while the 2017 Employer Skills Survey found that there is significant demand for skilled and qualified professionals in IT and engineering, as well as a need for complex numerical and statistical skills.

 

In response to the research, Dr Richard Wilson OBE, TIGA CEO said:

“TIGA welcomes the Government’s commitment to combating misconceptions of studying STEM amongst girls. More girls studying STEM subjects is great news for combating the UK’s growing demand for STEM skills.

“However, more progress is needed. Although overall, 52 percent of STEM[2] graduates in 2018 were female, only 15 per cent of computer science graduates, 15 per cent of engineering and technology graduates, and 39 percent of mathematics graduates were women.[3]

“It is important that perception of STEM is not a barrier to studying STEM subjects, pursuing STEM careers or achieving senior STEM roles. Increasing the number of girls and women in STEM will help to ensure that there is a diverse talent pool and that sectors such as the UK’s games industry, remains globally competitive and sustainable in the long-term.”

 

The data is based on a Longitudinal Study of Young People in England and looks at the different attitudes of male and female students. The full data set can be found here.

The Government’s full press release can be found here.

 

[1] Joint Council for Qualifications, 16 August 2018, link.

[2] There is no single official definition of which subjects make up STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). The HESA science grouping includes subjects like medicine, nursing and agriculture that may not be included in other definitions of STEM.

[3] HESA, HE qualifications obtained by subject area and sex 2013/14 to 2017/18, link.




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