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Women in STEM Apprenticeships

Volume 715: debated on Wednesday 8 June 2022

6. What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to help increase the number of women in STEM apprenticeships. (900372)

We are supporting more women to access traditionally male-dominated fields such as STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—and those that offer the highest wage returns. Our apprenticeship diversity champion network is championing gender representation among employers and industries where improvement is needed, and we are promoting STEM apprenticeships to girls in schools.

Providing opportunities in STEM for women is essential, as is showing that there are already women in these roles doing the jobs that they aspire to. I would like to praise two local businesses that have worked tirelessly on this: BAE Systems in Barrow, responsible for our submarine programme, which has increased female participation in its early years programme from 19% to 32% in just five years; and Oxley Developments in Ulverston, which has a 50% female workforce. Clearly there is something going right in this cluster in south Cumbria. With that in mind, could I invite my right hon. Friend to come and visit?

I would be delighted to take up the opportunity to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency and hear more about the work that his local businesses are doing to enhance the opportunities of young people.

The Minister for Women and Equalities has just lauded her Government’s social mobility tsar. Does the Minister for Higher and Further Education agree with that tsar that

“physics isn’t something that girls tend to fancy…There’s a lot of hard maths in there”?

If not, will she condemn those remarks and others that put girls and women off careers in STEM because of, to use the words of the Minister for Women and Equalities, the

“soft bigotry of low expectations”?

Conservative Members believe in free speech and the right to have a view, but of course we want all people to aspire to go into their chosen careers, including in STEM.