Schools minister Nick Gibb has called on teachers and parents to challenge and dispel misconceptions some girls have about the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects after new data shows boys are still more likely to study the subjects.
While the number of girls taking STEM A Levels has increased by 26% since 2010, Department of Education research shows 15-year-old boys are more likely than girls to see STEM subjects as being useful when it comes to getting a job and that girls are less likely to consider a STEM subject as their favourite.
The data is based on a survey taken by 10,010 15-year-olds. While girls and boys both rank STEM subjects as leading to the highest paying careers, only 51% of girls said a STEM subject was the most likely to lead to a job, compared to 69% of boys.
Additionally, just 32% of girls ranked a STEM subject first for enjoyment, while 59% of boys did. Girls were less likely than boys (33% compared to 60%) to call STEM their best subject.
And when asked what they planned to study at A-Level, female pupils made up the minority of those naming STEM subjects, particularly, in engineering (14% / 86%), computing (15% / 85%) and physics (22% / 78%).
In a speech designed to coincide with International Day of Women & Girls in Science, Gibb said: “There is growing demand for STEM skills, particularly for sectors such as engineering, construction and manufacturing, and it’s essential that gender is no barrier to ensuring that all young people have the knowledge and skills to succeed in our outward looking and dynamic economy.
“We’ve made considerable progress in increasing girls’ participation in STEM subjects since 2010, with the proportion of girls taking STEM A Levels increasing and 25% more women accepted onto full-time STEM undergraduate courses.”
Gibb said the Government is determined to continue this trend, and is funding programmes to increase the take up of maths, computing and physics. It says it has also reformed the school curriculum to make sure it meets the needs of employers.
He added: “Certain misconceptions are still prevalent, and we all have a part to play, including parents and teachers, to dispel misconceptions about STEM subjects and help encourage our scientists of future generations.”