This year’s A-level results reveal a worrying and continued trend in the ratio of male to female students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects. Significantly more boys study STEM subjects than girls; in computing and physics the gender gap was particularly wide with 10 times as many boys studying computing and four times as many studying physics.
There needs to be a concerted effort to increase the number of girls studying STEM subjects.
The gender divide at sixth-form level translates into a gender divide at industry level: currently only one in seven people working in STEM industries is female and, according to recent data, the UK has the lowest percentage of women working in STEM careers in Europe.
Kate Morris, a director for AECOM and a chartered engineer says that “engineering is often still perceived as a ‘male’ profession, but the work we do is not gender specific. Unfortunately most women do not intuitively think of pursuing a career in the built environment industry, despite how immensely rewarding it is delivering project that improve the way people live, work and travel”
We must do more to highlight both the personal and societal rewards of working within a STEM industry in order to get more girls to view it as an attractive career prospect.
Kate Morris continues: “It is knowing I am improving people’s lives that makes me proud to be an engineer. I enjoy a wonderfully fulfilling career that gives me opportunities to work on diverse projects, meet interesting people and travel extensively.”
The experience of working within STEM industries is challenging, fulfilling and full of opportunity. It is imperative that we have girls studying subjects that will allow them to become involved in these industries.
It is not good enough for us to let the gender inequality at A-level continue; it is not good enough for us in 2016 to have industries that have such prevalent gender divides: we should aim to have many more girls involved in STEM subjects and STEM jobs, rewarding not only for the industry, but for Britain as a whole.