STEM Skills Fund

Overview

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 also conducted a survey of girls to better understand why they were much less likely than boys to choose to study A-level maths and physics. The findings from the trial have informed the development of our current activities: a programme to build confidence to choose A-level maths, physics and, newly, computer science; and a further pilot of the scholarship scheme, using an adjusted design. These activities are described in greater detail under Programmes.

The Issue

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 and information technology, two 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.

Findings from pilot of Maths & Physics Girls’ Scholarship

We found that enrolment to study A-level maths and physics increased by 8% and 10%, respectively, because of the scholarship. During the pilot of the scholarship we surveyed participants to find out why they were less likely to choose to study A-level maths and physics, compared with their male counterparts. Among the reasons we found were lack of confidence with choosing these subjects because of lack of information about opportunities studying A-level maths and physics post-16 can lead to, and lack of exposure to female role models to emulate. We have therefore developed Girls Like Me, a programme intended to address those issues. Girls Like Me will run alongside the Computer Science, Maths & Physics Girls’ Scholarship. More information about both programmes can be found under Programmes.

Click here to read what some notable people have to say about the Maths and Physics Girls’ Scholarship