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Encouraging female students to take STEM subjects at A level


I’m Steph and I’m a Sixth Form student who plans to pursue a career in engineering.


As the only (out of about 40 students total) female physics or further maths student in my Sixth Form, I am keen to encourage more GCSE students to take science subjects at A level. Speaking to some of them, a lot of them do not believe they are intelligent enough, even the top students in the class.

I am currently volunteering to help out with science lessons once a week but want to do more.

Does anyone have any ideas about how to encourage more students (particularly female students) to take science subjects at A level?

Thanks for any suggestions!
  • Why don't you contact your local STEM Ambassador Hub and see if they can give you some suggestions. 

    They might be able to send some Ambassadors along to talk to the girls.
  • Thanks for the response! I’ll see if I can do that.
  • There are times when I wonder whether concerns about the lack of female students taking STEM subjects, as well as initiatives to encourage more to take them, verge on so called positive discrimination or even political correctness.

    At my college there were considerable disparities between the types of students taking different A Level subjects. Electronics was extremely male dominated, computing considerably so. At the same time the number of south Asian students studying a European foreign language was next to nothing and only a small handful studied history with most of them proposing to take a degree in law. South Asian students possibly outnumbered white British students in chemistry as many of them proposed to take a degree in medicine or pharmacy whereas English literature, and psychology were almost completely white British and heavily female dominated.

    There probably are good reasons deep down why students of different backgrounds or genders are attracted to or repulsed by particular A Level subjects. Unlike at GCSE level I'm not certain whether changing the course curriculum or style of assessment will have much effect at attracting students who previously wouldn't have considered them.
  • It has to be taken into account that most people pick A Level subjects either because they have a specific use for them or else because they don't have an idea what they want to do in life and just happen to enjoy them or are good at them.

    I'm inclined to say that a higher proportion of students who take (two or more?) STEM subjects are taking them for the purpose of future employment than students who take arts, humanities, and soft subjects.

    Perhaps large numbers of female students cannot find any good uses for STEM subjects in relation to their future career and life. My mother has 3 science O Levels but she did not study the same subjects at A Level. She did however take computing at A Level despite not having studied the subject at O Level. It was her third subject where mathematics and history were also considered.

  • Arran Cameron:

    There are times when I wonder whether concerns about the lack of female students taking STEM subjects, as well as initiatives to encourage more to take them, verge on so called positive discrimination or even political correctness.

    Yup, they do. When a society has had a few thousand years of political incorrectness it's going to take a bit of effort to correct it. It's a PID control system, to correct an error it can require increased drive to overcome the inertia in the system. The clever bit is calibrating the system so that the effort reduces as the system approaches the set value to prevent overshoot.

    Figures from 2016 are here A pretty appalling waste of potential talent in the physics and computing figures - and indeed in the arts, sociology, psychology and communication studies figures. Attitudes and expectations are changing, but still very slowly. So let's not be ashamed of trying to knock this bonkers idea out of court that "girls can't do tech" or (maybe even insidious) "girls don't want to do tech". Make people unwelcome and they'll feel unwelcome, and when that bias exists throughout society it takes considerable extra effort to make the affected group feel welcome instead. 

    Good thing is that I've noticed that in the actual world of professional engineering there is a huge and healthy generational shift in attitude. So I'd always recommend that girls take up actual placement in engineering companies rather than taking any notice of the attitudes on engineering forums! 



  • Hi Steph,

    - I see you posted this some time ago but, in case this is of help, here is my sugggestion

    - Before the Corona Virus epidemic started, I used to go to schools quite a lot doing presentations and other activities. I would recommend encouraging the young people to watch Abbie Huttie's videos. You can find many of them with a simple Google search using  'Abbie Huttie IET'. You could include the videos as part of a presentation as the youngsters like videos as it adds variety to the talk. Abbie Huttie has been working on the latest Mars rover, which is interesting in itself. There are many other practical IET videos including some on apprenticeships which also include girls, which might be of interest.

    - I hope this is of some help.


    Rob H.
  • There's nothing "politically incorrect" about the course of human development taking a natural course rather than a course distorted by well meaning people with some virtuous political agenda..

    Unfortunately for these people the reality is that girls and boys are different, have different inherent instincts and thus interests.

    By all means have the door open for anyone who wants to join a male dominated profession (which it is now), and vice-versa, but please stop the social engineering.

    If we need more talent in engineering maybe we should work to make it more lucrative.
  • I have to completely disagree with the above post. The differences within the sexes are far higher than the differences between the sexes - there are males who are and aren't interested in technology, and females who are and aren't interested in technology. My daughter is far more technically competent and interested than my son!

    We have spent the last hundred years socially engineering boys to play with meccano (whether they want to or not) and girls to play with dolls (whether they want to or not). It's silly, wasteful, and time for it to stop.
  • We have to beware the PC attitude that everyone is equal and thus everyone can or should do, or be able to or be encouraged to do, everything.

    It's a balance between nature and nurture. Men are from Mars and Ladies are from Venus sums up the fact that males and females are genetically different physically as well as the way they are mentally and emotionally wired. There are many exceptions to this generality and we should encourage females into male dominated careers if they have the skills and aptitude for those subjects.

    However, having 'positive discrimination quotas' to get females into STEM careers is wrong on many levels, there will be a high failure or dissatisfaction rate that will be a negative incentive and discouragement for those thinking of following. However, everyone should have the opportunity to do their best in whatever walk of life or sector they have the ability to maximise their potential in, and this may change through life.

    To get anyone interested in any subject or career has to answer two simple questions - what is in it for me, and, what is so interesting in this subject to get me involved and enthused?

    To make STEM attractive to females they have to feel welcome in the subject, see the relevance and a future in linked sectors, feel they will not be discriminated against in male-dominated sectors, see a fulfilling career that balances work and family commitments through life, and have some strong and credible role models to look to as guides and mentors in various STEM sectors.

    Who are the STEM-qualified female role models in STEM-dominated sectors that would attract females into the A level STEM subjects needed for various sectors, and how do they engage with the education system from primary school through to university and beyond to a professional career and qualification in a STEM career?

    How do we find synergies between the female-attracting careers such as medicine, nursing, care and male-attracting STEM subjects such as construction, AI, tele-medicine, robotics, space, aviation, etc, to get cross fertilisation of skills, experience, ideas and collaborative sector working during careers?

    Leverage the best of both sexes to achieve a bigger sum output, so that 1 + 1 = 3

  • Dear Maurice Dixon,

    Only you know nowadays women are equal to men in their income. So I really don't understand you