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Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

Volume 706: debated on Wednesday 12 January 2022

1. What steps she is taking to increase the number of women and girls (a) studying and (b) employed in STEM subjects and jobs. (905015)

Between 2010 and 2020, under this Conservative Government, the number of women accepted on to full-time STEM undergraduate courses in the UK has increased by 49%.[Official Report, 25 January 2022, Vol. 707, c. 9MC.] We are utterly committed to ensuring that more women and girls study STEM through funding programmes that boost uptake, such as the Inclusion in Schools physics programme.

Would my hon. Friend be able to let me know exactly how many women are taking up STEM apprenticeships? I ask this question specifically because the electric vehicle revolution in the west midlands is leading the way, and I am keen to see women taking up such opportunities so that they can have a long-term career in high-quality, high-paid jobs.

I thank my hon. Friend for her question and I look forward to visiting the west midlands to see that with my own eyes, because apprenticeships are exactly the sort of first step on the career path we are looking to provide for our young people. Women now account for more than half of all apprenticeship starts across the country and our apprenticeships diversity champions network is working with employers across the country to make sure we see the improvement we need.

The under-representation of women in STEM is informed by a variety of factors. What assessment have the Government made of how careers in niche areas of STEM such as photonics can be better advertised and incentivised for women?

We are always doing whatever we can to encourage more women and girls to study STEM. I am delighted to say that the number of women on full-time STEM undergraduate courses has gone up by 49% since 2010. The percentage of women on full-time STEM undergraduate courses has gone up from 34% to 42% since 2010, and A-level science entries are up 36% among girls. Girls now account for more than 50% of all science A-level entries, and women now account for over half of all STEM undergraduates. Those are significant increases since the Conservatives came to power in 2020, and I look forward to taking that from strength to strength.

Wockhardt in Wrexham made the AstraZeneca vaccine ready, setting the scene for Wrexham to be at the forefront of opportunities. Does the Minister agree that now is the time to encourage young people, including women, into STEM opportunities, and that Wrexham, with Glynd┼Ár University and Coleg Cambria, is just the place to do that?

It looks like I shall be going to Wrexham as well. I am delighted to say that, under this Government, women and girls are driving the STEM revolution that is powering the new economy.