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STEM Subjects (Female Pupils)

Volume 587: debated on Monday 27 October 2014

7. What steps the Government have taken to improve participation rates of female pupils taking STEM subjects. (905634)

Both of my ministerial roles give me a personal passion about this issue. As a result of our reforms to GCSEs, this year a record proportion of pupils entered the science EBacc subjects—68.7%—and girls perform even better than boys thanks to excellent teaching, but we want to continue to make progress, which is why the Government are supporting the “Your Life” campaign, which will change young people’s perceptions of where maths and science can take them.

I am glad that the Women’s Engineering Society is based in Stevenage. The WES and I are concerned that, although young women enjoy science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, they do not associate them with a career choice. Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming “Sparks”, the new WES initiative designed to encourage young women to turn that interest in STEM subjects into a career choice in engineering?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We welcome all initiatives that aspire to get more girls into careers such as engineering. I entirely welcome the “Sparks” initiative, which the WES, based in Stevenage, has launched. Working with more than 200 partners from the UK’s best-known businesses and educators, and with the support of organisations such as WES, our “Your Life” campaign will promote STEM subjects leading to a wide range of career options.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that, in the UK, we have the lowest participation rate of women in engineering of any country in the European Union. She welcomes “Sparks” and “Your Life” but, in that context, will she welcome tomorrow’s engineers week, which is next week? It aims to change perceptions of engineering, particularly among young ladies in the 11 to 14 age group?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am happy to add my support to the national engineers week next week. As I said at a recent event, I understand that we need 83,000 more engineers every year for the next 10 years, and they cannot all be men.