Women in STEM - an analysis

This month, here at Learning Plus UK, we decided to conduct some STEM (Science, Technology,Engineering and Mathematics) analysis. From GCSE level up to University applications, we are analysing the differences between Male and Female figures to see if more women are continuing with studying STEM at a higher level, as is currently being pushed for by numerous charities and national initiatives.


Click on the infographic to explore in more detail

GCSE

Whilst many initiatives are aimed at Post-16 education, we began by looking at the figures for those whos at GCSEs (Full Course) in STEM subjects, as this has the potential to impact subject choices for Post-16 studies. Whilst it appears that the proportion of females taking STEM GCSE subjects has decreased over the last three years, the population of females aged 15-29 is currently following a decreasing trend whilst the male population is increasing so the figures are in fact representative of the population changes. This is to be expected as it is mandatory for all GCSE students to take Science and Maths.

A Level

On the other hand, despite GCSE figures for females appearing to lack improvement, the number of females studying STEM subjects at A Level has increased slightly. In fact, the number of females increased by over double the number of males across the last three years. However, certain subjects are still strongly dominated by males. For example, over 90% of students who sat A Level Computing in 2016 were male although it is worth noting that this is down from 93% in 2014.Alternatively though, there are a few subjects which maintain a strong female cohort. For example, Psychology is 76% female and Biology is 61% female. The strong focus on women in STEM has introduced some drops in the number of males,out of the 10 subject areas analysed, 6 have had a decrease in males in the last year including Biology, Chemistry and Computing.

University

The figures between males and females for GCSE and A Level are fairly similar however when it comes to University applications in STEM subjects, males take a clear lead of at least 18% for the last three consecutive years. It appears that females are more likely to apply for those subjects which are more biological. For example, medicine and dentistry and sciences combined with social sciences or arts are the only areas in which females take the lead. In the other six STEM areas however, males tend to take a strong lead. The two main subject areas that seem to exemplify this most predominantly would be computer sciences and engineering where females make up a mere 15% of the applicants.

Progression

When we look at the proportions as they progress throughout the stages of education, we see a decrease in female participation in STEM subjects compared to males. However,when we look at the stages individually, the gender gap has in fact narrowed over the last three years for A Level and University. GCSE is the only stage where the gap has widened, however this is due to the population changes as previously mentioned.

At Learning Plus UK, we were interested to see that the number of applicants for Medicine and Dentistry for males and females has decreased by nearly 10,000 over the last three years. Is this due to students becoming more aware of other scientific options for study? We’d love to hear what you think – let us know by joining the discussion on our Twitter.