U.K.: High School Girls Excel in STEM Subjects, Pick Other Careers

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By Rick Vollmar

Aug. 14—While young women in the U.K. are performing better than boys on their A Level exams in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math), they are less inclined to pursue advanced study in these disciplines, according to research by British architectural, engineering and construction firm AECOM.

The A Level is an examination for secondary-school students in particular subjects (math, chemistry, history, etc.) often used as a qualification for entering university.

As reported by Building.co.uk, AECOM found that while 72 percent of girls earned grades of C or better in their STEM A-Level scores in 2014 compared to 66 percent of boys, fewer girls than boys—24,000 versus 54,000—went on to advanced studies in math, and a similar disparity by gender applied to students going on to advanced study in physics. (Passing grades in A Levels are ranked, highest to lowest, from A to G.)

According to AECOM, this disparity in large part results from continuing stereotypes held by teenagers regarding careers appropriate for women as opposed to men. The solution to this problem, AECOM said, is to “reframe the way STEM subjects and related careers are presented to girls from a young age in order to increase the numbers choosing to enter technical professions.”

As quoted by Building.co.uk , Richard Robinson, AECOM’s chief executive, Civil Infrastructure, EMEA and India, urged “technical industries such as engineering . . . to capture the imagination of young people, and girls in particular, to encourage them into technical professions.”

“Young people need to hear about the exciting, intellectually challenging work engineers do to build a better world, from designing sustainable transport and energy infrastructure to protecting people from floods or planning cities of the future,” Robinson continued. “If more teenagers are made aware of the opportunities to travel the world and work on high-profile projects that really benefit society, the numbers seeking to enter the profession will inevitably increase.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

The Building.co.uk release is available at http://www.building.co.uk/gender-stereotypes-still-deterring-girls-from-stem-subjects-says-aecom/5077010.article.

For more information on British HR law and regulation, see the U.K. primer.