Girls give up on STEM subjects after A-level despite subject rise

News by Grace Johansson

A higher percentage of girls are taking A-levels in the three sciences, technology and maths, yet they are still avoiding going on to study the same subjects at university, a study of 100,000 sixth formers by The Times has found.

A higher percentage of girls are taking A-levels in the three sciences, technology and maths, yet they are still avoiding going on to study the same subjects at university, a study of 100,000 sixth formers by The Times has found.


According to Unifrog, an online university and careers advice platform, the ten most popular subjects for boys were economics, law, medicine, computer science, maths, history, accounting and finance, mechanical engineering, psychology, and physics. This meant that almost all ten were STEM based degrees and are subjects that have been taught from the very first parts of school.


For girls however, the top ten degrees were psychology, law, medicine, history, geography, criminology, English, midwifery, architecture, and maths. This meant that the degrees tended to be in more traditionally female-led professions, for example there are a higher number of female midwives than men,  and with history, geography and English these are all perceived as teaching-related subjects, which is a female dominated profession, with only 26 percent of teachers being male throughout the entirety of the UK.


There is only a three percent difference between boys and girls applying to Russell Group universities with 46 percent of boys in sixth form applying to a Russell Group and 43 percent of girls. Unifrog also predicted that 67 percent of private school pupils will apply for the top universities whereas only 40 percent of pupils from state schools will apply to the top flight universities.


Guita Blake, SVP & head of europe at Mindtree commented: “Whilst it is encouraging to see a rise in the number of girls taking STEM subjects at A-level, it's very disheartening and even quite concerning that we are not seeing this translate into similar numbers in higher education institutions.

“A diverse workforce is key to future of the technology and IT industry, both in the UK and around the world. And, in order for us to develop at the pace required to truly innovate, a range of skills and backgrounds is pivotal to create and drive through ultra-swift technological advancements.

“It is now the combined responsibility of the government, education providers and technology companies alike to encourage all students to take up STEM subjects at university, thus ensuring that we cultivate the next generation of the IT leaders.”


Jane Frankland, managing director of Cyber Security Capital, author of IN Security, Champion for Women in Security and Founder of the IN Security movement commented in an email to SC Media UK: “This research is disappointing but when it comes to attracting more women into cyber-security we shouldn't be discouraged. Everyone accepts that the profession has much work to do, and that support is needed from government, academia and industry. However, STEM needs to evolve into STEAM. Including the arts in STEM would be a welcome change for cyber-security. Image matters, and if creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking – all touted as the hallmark skills for 21st Century success – are to be cultivated in cyber-security we need to ensure that STEM subjects are drawn closer to the arts. This means we have to stop insisting on STEM disciplines for cyber-security. It's an utter red herring – a logical fallacy that leads everyone to the wrong conclusions about our profession. By including the arts, cyber-security can open up its doors to a different kind of talent pool, and benefit from new ways of thinking.”

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