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STEM Industries

Volume 616: debated on Thursday 27 October 2016

6. What steps the Government are taking to increase the number of women working in science, technology, engineering and maths—STEM—industries. (906859)

Increasing the number of women in STEM industries is not only vital for our economic growth but part of how we can support our ambition to eliminate the gender pay gap. We are supporting girls to choose STEM subjects and careers by improving the quality of teaching in STEM subjects and increasing the proportion of girls’ A-level entries in maths and science. We are also raising awareness of just how exciting and valuable STEM careers can be for our young people through STEM ambassadors and through publishing online guidance called “Your Daughter’s Future”.

I am most grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer. The east coast energy internship is a new scheme supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Ogden Trust. As a result of undertaking one of the internships, Felicity Levett, a student at Lowestoft sixth-form college, is now pursuing a career in offshore renewables. Does my right hon. Friend agree that such schemes should be promoted more widely so that everyone, regardless of gender or background, can realise their career ambitions?

I strongly support what my hon. Friend has just said. I am well aware of all the work that has been going on in his local community to encourage girls to get into STEM. His constituent is a shining example of the great steps that girls can take once they follow this path, and we will be promoting a whole range of fantastic opportunities to encourage more young people, particularly young girls, to follow her example.

Men continue to dominate apprenticeships in the fields with the best earning potential. In 2013, nearly 13,000 men started engineering apprenticeships, but only 400 women did so. Will the Minister commit to ensuring 50:50 recruitment in STEM-focused apprenticeships?

The hon. Lady makes a really important point. At the moment, we are seeing success in getting girls to take STEM subjects at GCSE, where the rates for girls and boys are broadly comparable. It is when we get to A-levels that we see more boys than girls doing maths, for example, although the rate for girls has risen. We need to ensure that we improve those statistics and strengthen the careers advice that can encourage girls to follow these paths.