STEM Inclusion Foundation (formerly STEM Skills Fund) was established in 2016 to contribute to improving the gender balance in A-level maths and physics and, thereby, that in occupations the study of these subjects leads to. To those ends, we recently piloted a Maths & Physics Girls’ Scholarship in partnership with the Institute for Fiscal Studies who evaluated the efficacy of the scholarship in increasing the number of girls who applied and enrolled to study A-level maths and physics. We conducted a survey of participants on the scholarship scheme to better understand why girls were much less likely than boys to choose to study A-level maths and physics. The findings from the survey have informed the development of our current programme, Girls Like Me, whose objective is to build confidence to choose to study A-level maths, physics and computer science. More information about the programme can be found under Girls Like Me on this site.
In 2018 just 12% of entrants for A-level computer science were females; they comprised 22% of those who took A-level physics; and 39% of those who took A-level maths. A-level subject choices can determine what a student is eligible to study at university and, consequently, which occupations they may join. For example, studying A-level maths and physics opens doors to careers in engineering, information technology and finance, three sectors in which women are significantly under-represented and where salaries are often above the national average. Female under-representation in these sectors is, arguably, one of the reasons for the national gender pay gap of 11.9%. The gender balance in STEM therefore does matter.