The years of hard work encouraging young girls to take up science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects - seen as ideal studies for a career as a data professional - appear to be bearing fruit with the number of female students taking A-level sciences overtaking males for the first time ever.
In England, the proportion of female students among those taking sciences this year rose to just over 50%, as the numbers of both males and females taking STEM subjects accounted for 21% of all A-level entries, up from 19.2% in 2018.
The shift – a 10 percentage point change compared with 2012 – is said to have been driven by a major drive to bust many of the stereotypes girls might have had about studying science.
Overall, biology was the most popular subject for females, who accounted for 63% of entries. There were also more female chemists proportionally, but males continue to dominate in physics, making up 77% of all entries in England.
However, there have been warnings that several subjects, including maths and computing, remain heavily populated by males.
Campaign for Science & Engineering executive director Sarah Main said: “Progress has been made in subjects such as physics, however, it continues to lag behind most subjects in terms of gender diversity.”
According to a 2018 report by STEM Learning, claimed to be the largest provider of education and career advice in the sector, some 89% of STEM businesses were struggling to recruit skilled staff. The shortfall of 173,000 workers is estimated to cost the UK economy around £1.5 billion a year.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I’m delighted to see more pupils choosing science-related subjects. This is encouraging particularly as we look to boost science in this country and the skills we’ll need in the future.”