The number of women graduating in a core STEM subject has continued to grow for another year. These women are talented individuals qualified to take up the exciting opportunities available in STEM and help address the persistent skills gaps across the UK.
However, due to more rapid growth in the number of men graduating in these subject areas the percentage of graduates who are women has dropped from 25% to 24%.
Whilst WISE are encouraged by the growth in women pursuing core STEM education at all levels, they are still severely underrepresented in areas such as engineering and computing.
We must make these rewarding and well-paid routes more accessible to women and ensure the pipeline of talented graduates continues to grow to meet the needs of UK plc. Not only are careers in these areas fulfilling but reducing gender imbalance across industries can help address the gender pay gap. The average computing science graduate salary is over £2,500 more than the average across all subjects1.
We would encourage universities to engage more women to apply by reviewing their marketing materials, entry requirements and offering taster days to women before they apply – actions which have had a marked impact in the apprenticeship sphere. WISE can support universities to tackle this challenge. Additionally, universities should consider training their outreach officers in People Like Me to help them engage effectively with local schools and prospective students.
Encouragingly for the third year in a row, the growth rate in the number of women graduates in physical science has exceed that of men. Women now represent 41% of graduates in physical sciences, perhaps a sign that concerted efforts to encourage girls to consider studying physics may be starting to reap the rewards.
In mathematical sciences, the number of women graduates has remained static at 39% since 2015/16.
However, in computer science the growth in the number of female graduates is well behind the growth in the number of male graduates (3.1% vs 9% respectively). This year women represent just 15% of computing graduates, down from 16% last year.
The picture is similarly disappointing in engineering where for the third year in a row, women represent just 14% of graduates.
The only core STEM area where the number of women graduates has decreased is Architecture, Building and Planning subjects where the women now represent just 27% of graduates compared to 35% in 2015/16.
Despite the continued growth in most core STEM areas, they still lag behind other STEM degrees on gender balance.
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