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Female students' enthusiasm for engineering grows, finds survey

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Statistics reveal a rise in the proportion of female pupils who are actively considering Stem courses



Campaigns to boost girls’ enthusiasm for science and engineering are beginning to bear fruit, according to a survey of 20,000 sixth formers between 2006/07 and 2012/12.

Statistics from Cambridge Occupational Analysts (COA) show a rise in the proportion of female pupils who are actively considering university courses in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects.

The COA survey revealed girls’ interest in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering rose by 18% and 27%, respectively, compared to 10% and 13% for boys.

Figures for combined sciences show a 19% rise in the proportion of girls expressing enthusiasm for the subject, compared to an 11% rise for sixth form boys.

Other Stem subjects where the level of interest increased more among females than males include chemistry and biochemistry (2% difference). Interest in physics-based subjects has grown by 14% for both genders since 2006/07.

Joyce Lane, COA joint director, said: “Our survey results suggest that girls are beginning to respond positively to the message that they can perform as well as boys in Stem subjects and aim for rewarding careers in related professions such as engineering.

“It must be remembered that they were starting from a relatively low base, and women are still under-represented in these subjects areas. Nevertheless, these are promising signs and it appears that we can expect to see more young women graduating with Stem degrees in the coming years. We can only hope that firms will respond to this trend by ensuring there are attractive career opportunities for female as well as male Stem graduates.”

The COA findings provide additional evidence that efforts to redress the imbalance are having an impact, as suggested by the findings of a recent study gauging interest in engineering among 11-14 year-olds, commissioned by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

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