Girls Underrepresented in STEM Despite Record Applicants: According to new figures from UCAS, there were a record number of female undergraduate starters in September last year – resulting in the highest gap between males and females being accepted ever.
The figures, which are the result of a first analysis undertaken by Ucas, continue to show that women are less likely to attend courses in the sciences and engineering. This pattern continues despite well publicised efforts by the Government and the STEM industry to try and increase the proportion of females in the workforce.
The actual figures, which show an increase of almost 58,000 in terms of the number of women entering higher education this year, put the overall total number of acceptances last September at more than half a million (512,000 individuals).
Whilst the gap between women and men applying for courses in engineering and STEM subjects has remained large (87% males in computer science, 85% males in engineering), these proportions are reversed for courses such as education (85% female applicants) and subjects which are related to medicine – such as nursing – where four fifths of applicants (81%) were women.
Whilst Nicky Morgan, the current secretary for education, is well known for having been strong in terms of pushing STEM subjects, according to a report from the Independent, she also recently downgraded subjects from the arts and humanities side when speaking at a conference. Ms Morgan stated that if you wanted to do something, the ‘arts and humanities were what you chose to do because they were useful for all kinds of jobs’, but then went on to say that ‘of course, we now know nothing could be further from the truth.’
The findings from Ucas’ statistics come in the wake of new research which suggests that parents are less likely to want their female children to work in STEM subjects – with only 1% of parents wanting their daughter to be an engineer for instance. The research from the Institution of Engineering and Technology found that few parents think positively about their children having a job in STEM industries.
Thea Patoff, a director at one of the UK’s largest stillage engineering firms, has suggested that there is a need for more females in the STEM work force:
“The STEM industry – engineering, manufacturing, technology and other subjects that utilise applied mathematics, has a great shortage of not only potential employees, but also of female graduates coming through who have a desire to work in these types of environment. It’s something we urgently need to address.”
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