Principal Data Consultant, UCAS
In 2018, for the fifth year running, women were more likely to go to university than men. Encouraging women to study STEM subjects has been a priority for years, so finally, is this a sign of success?
Unfortunately not… but that isn’t the whole story. Although in most subjects, women across the UK continue to be more likely to enter higher education, with 38.3% of 18 year olds starting a course compared to 28% of young men, it isn’t reflected across STEM subjects.
The diversity of courses that fit within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines is also representative of who is applying for them. An entire sector of professionals have been behind national campaigns to encourage women to study STEM subjects, but there is still a distinct gender split – with young women being drawn to the science-based subjects such as dentistry, nursing, biology, psychology, and medicine, and men to courses within the technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
In fact, by the January application deadline for undergraduate courses starting this September, young women were roughly seven times as likely to apply for courses in both veterinary sciences and education and learning. Men were around four times as likely to apply to courses in both computing, and engineering and technology.
Understanding where STEM subjects can take you
It’s all about changing attitudes – there are no barriers to women studying those subjects that are currently the domain of men – it’s just about taking a different view. UCAS’ subject guides are a great starting point for research, with inspiration on where subjects can take you.
Get out there and speak to current students and recent graduates at open days – or even women already working in the field. They will open your eyes to the diversity of the opportunities the technology-, engineering- and mathematics-based subjects can bring.
A personal journey for Alice
It’s a step I took in 2011, when I applied for a course in Maths and Econonics. Data science is dominated by men. When I started studying, 46% more men than women were accepted onto maths courses – but for me, and my female colleagues, that’s where the opportunity was. It was a great chance to use the skills I had and gain a qualification that would allow me to apply them to a career that can and could take me anywhere.
So, for female students considering their next steps, now is the perfect chance to start thinking differently. Buck the trend and consider applying for subjects that are still – traditionally – the domain of male students. And then enjoy the challenge that brings.