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Women in STEM 2021

Girls regularly out-perform boys in STEM subjects

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Kay Hussain

Chief Executive Officer, WISE, the campaign for greater gender balance in STEM

Research shows that girls and women are equally capable of learning and working successfully in STEM roles as boys and men.

Over the last few years, we have seen progress in the take up of STEM subjects by girls to that point that they regularly outperform boys at GCSE and A-level. This positive trend was reflected in our analysis of 2020’s A-levels results which revealed increasing proportions of females taking each of the subjects.

An extra 632 core STEM A-Levels were awarded to girls, continuing the trend for growth in previous years, despite a drop of over 20,000 A-Levels awarded across all subjects in 2020. Girls were also awarded a greater number of science A-levels than boys for the second year running.

It’s vital we maintain this impetus and consistently reinforce positive messages to show girls and their families that studying STEM subjects open doors to exciting, well-paid jobs that have a real impact on our world.

By working together, employers, universities, colleges and organisations like WISE, can continue helping schools to encourage boys and girls discover their niche, free from gender stereotypes which limit their options. It’s critically important to include parents in these conversations too, they are, after all, the biggest influencers of their child’s career choices.

We want to see girls equally represented in all STEM subjects from primary school to higher education.  

Finding successful role models

We know that peer pressure has a strong influence, particularly in the teenage years, on what girls choose to study. Many girls miss out on finding their niche in STEM because they don’t want to be the odd one out. Meeting successful female role models at an early age would open their eyes and help address this. We especially need to ensure we introduce role models working in technology and developing areas which students and teachers may not be aware of.

Employers, colleges and universities can also help via enhanced outreach programmes to raise awareness, inspire and build understanding of how STEM subjects pave the way into future careers.

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