Girls continue to outperform boys across most STEM subjects and entries by girls continue to grow across many subjects, despite a drop in STEM entries overall.
The number of girls entering key core STEM subjects has increased, despite the overall number of A level entries across all subjects falling. However, girls still remain under represented across core STEM - for the second year in a row they represent just 36.7% of entrants to core STEM subjects due to a growing number of boys taking the subjects too.
There was no significant change in the number of women graduating from UK universities with a core STEM degree in 2016 compared to the year before. Women made up 25% of the total, the same as last year and the year before. Just over 22,000 women graduated in 2016 in the five core subjects most relevant to construction, engineering and technology, compared to over 65,000 men.
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.
This demonstrates that some progress is being made, but as the STEM sectors continue to grow, the rate at which women are taking up jobs does not compare to that of men.
In this year’s list, there are only 6 companies across the FTSE 100 with only one woman on the board and 60% of companies now have more than two women on the board of directors. Within the STEM sector the number of companies reaching this milestone has increased significantly since 2015 (Table 1). However, the STEM sector still lags behind the non-STEM sector where 65% of companies have hit this benchmark.
Whilst it is reassuring to see that the number of women taking key STEM apprenticeships has increased over the past four years, the proportion of female apprenticeships remains small. It is extremely disappointing to see that the overall percentage of female STEM apprentices remains static and that there has been no significant increases in the uptake of these apprenticeships by women in this period.
The 2016 GCSE results show that there has been an increase in the number of STEM subjects taken by students. Girls are taking more STEM subjects and achieving better grades at GCSE.