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STEM Degrees

Volume 638: debated on Thursday 29 March 2018

1. What recent assessment she has made of trends in the number of women choosing STEM degree courses. (904678)

I am delighted to say that the latest data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service shows that there has been a 25% increase in the number of women accepted on to full-time undergraduate science, technology, engineering and maths courses since 2010, which is significantly more than the 14% increase among men. That is good progress, but there is more to do.

That is superb news, and I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer. Does she agree that the best way to encourage more women to study STEM subjects is via activities at school that bring them to life, such as the weekly STEM club at Torquay Girls’ Grammar School?

I congratulate Torquay Girls’ Grammar School on having those weekly meetings, which I am sure act as an inspiration for young women to take up STEM subjects. I am pleased that since 2010, we have seen an 18% increase in the number of girls taking STEM subjects at A-level.

In order to choose STEM subjects at university, girls need to have seen what fantastic careers STEM and engineering can offer. I know that many engineering companies want to go into schools and show that, but there is no co-ordination and no signposting of how they can do that. Will the Minister commit to ensuring that there is a central point where companies and schools can come together to get engineering into girls’ lives?

I agree with the hon. Lady that young women need to see the benefits of studying STEM subjects, because then they can see the huge range of options opening up to them in the modern world. In fact, we have an ambassadors programme, to which 30,000 ambassadors are signed up, who go into schools and provide just the sort of inspiration that is needed.

We know that gender stereotypes are established extremely early in a child’s life, so what support is the Department giving to campaigns to promote gender-neutral toys?

I would say that there is sufficient peer pressure to make sure that producers and manufacturers of gender-specific toys are increasingly being encouraged to think again about that, so that we can encourage young women to make sure they take seriously their career options.