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From Classroom to Boardroom: The STEM Pipeline

WISE has analysed the gender balance and trends at every stage of the STEM Classroom to Boardroom pipeline.

9 November 2016

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Today the STEM worker shortfall is estimated to be approximately 69,000 thousand per year. Without drastic change, UK key growth industries risk stalling and the UK has the potential to fall even further behind other European countries. A press release at the WISE Conference, on 10 November 2016 highlights one potential solution – to focus on the 50,000 girls turning away from a STEM education every year. Without significant change to increase the potential number of skilled STEM practitioners leaving education, the labour force skills shortage will only deepen.

A summary of the STEM Education Pipeline leading into the labour force statistics can be found below, each section links to analysis published by WISE of the most recent data.The STEM Education Pipeline:

Only 33% of girls who take maths and science GCSEs progress into any form of Level 3 core STEM qualification, whether this is via the A-level, advanced apprenticeship or vocational qualification routes. This is compared to 80% of boys from the GCSE cohort that progress to a Level 3 STEM qualification. Many professional STEM occupations require qualification at Level 4 or above, which may be through higher education, higher apprenticeships or further vocational qualifications. Only 7% of the girls who take STEM GCSEs will go on to qualify at Level 4 in a Core STEM area, this is drastically lower than the 24% of boys who will leave education with these qualifications. This represent a real risk to the future STEM labour force and will likely exacerbate the current skills crisis.

  • GCSE: At GCSE, there is approximately equal numbers of girls and boys taking STEM subjects because it is compulsory for all students to take maths and at least one science. Girls outperform boys across most GCSE subjects – more so in STEM than other subjects. 71.3% of girls who take STEM subjects achieve A*- C grades, compared to 62.4% of boys.
  • A-level: Only 18% of girls continue from GCSE to take a STEM subject at A-Level. More girls than boys took biology (61.1% female) and half of all entrants to Chemistry were female. The critical mass of 30% female has been reached in Design & Technology (38.6%) and Maths (38.7%). It is particularly important that we continue to encourage more girls to take Maths A-level as it is a gateway to Higher apprenticeships. The number of girls taking Computing has increased by 33% but still represent only 9.8% of all entrants. Girls continue to outperform boys in Physics, Further Maths, Biology, Computing, D&T, ICT and Other Sciences
  • Apprenticeships: Although 55% of those who completed an apprenticeship last year were female, women made up only 5.5% of those who completed a STEM apprenticeship. 290 women completed an engineering apprenticeship, compared to 9, 390 men. These percentages have hardly changed in the last 5 years.
  • Higher Education: 24% of graduates in core STEM subjects were female in 2015, this figure has been stagnant since 2012. Places on core STEM courses accepted by women has increased by 1.2% since 2012, this is despite overall number of acceptances remaining static.

STEM Workforce

  • Core STEM Occupations: 21% of those working in Core STEM occupations in 2016 are women. This is 13,000 more than last year but there are 218,000 more men in Core STEM resulting in a 1% drop in the percentage of women.
  • Management: Within these Core STEM occupational categories is the category of SET management. Despite decreases in the number of women in other Core STEM areas, there is now over 17,000 more women in SET managements roles since 2015. Women now represent 14% of SET managers. This potentially indicates that women that have been lost from other Core STEM occupations may have moved into management roles.
  • Boards of FTSE 100 Companies: 125 out of 389 directors of STEM companies are female and 54% of the 48 STEM companies listed on the FTSE 100 have over 2 female directors on their boards. 27 STEM companies have now met the 25% female board voluntary target set by the Davies review. In the closing of the review, a new target of 33% was set to be met by 2020; in order to meet this target companies should be achieving females representing 27% of their board in 2016, 18 STEM companies have met this target.

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