Girls choosing low-paid careers subjects rather than STEM

Despite girls outperforming boys in 'male-dominated' subjects in Scotland's schools, a hugely disproportionate number are drawn to qualifications associated with lower-paid jobs, a report reveals.

Research shows girls are largely avoiding STEM subjects such as engineering science and computing science - totalling just 8 and 15 per cent of Higher entries respectively.

In contrast girls provide the overwhelming majority of Higher entries in childcare and development (95 per cent) and care (92 per cent).

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The figures from the Scottish Government’s report - Learner Journey focussing on education and training for 15-24-year-olds, has prompted calls for female pupils to have more STEM (science, technology, education and maths) role models.

Dr Patrycja Kupiec, director of YWCA Scotland, said girls appeared put off STEM subjects as they progressed through school.

“Girls should feel like they can study any subject, whether it is dance or engineering science...but at some point in their learner journey, they don’t feel comfortable pursuing Stem subjects - and that is certainly not because of lack of ability.”

Ms Kupiec added that high-achieving women Stem achievers such as Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Sabrina Pasterski and Hedy Lamarr, were not talked about enough, something her organisation’s 30 under 30 campaign, profiling inspiring young women from Scotland was aiming to rectify.

In school qualifications, although there are slightly fewer female pupils in secondary schools, they provide 55 per cent of entries at both Higher and Advanced Highers. Girls also do better than boys in STEM subjects.

Meanwhile boys feature strongly in lower-level qualifications, such as National 2, with 62 per cent of entries.

Kate Farrell, a computing science teacher and committee member of Computing at School Scotland said that IT careers could be a well-paid career choice, with four out of 10 top-paid jobs in 2017 being in IT.

“Even though low numbers of females study computing science, those who do outperform their male peers.

“Unfortunately, somehow our culture and media is persuading girls around P7-S2 that it isn’t for them, that it’s a boy’s thing.

“This has been true since the 1980s, when home computers became affordable but were marketed at boys.”

Meanwhile John Forsyth, policy manager at Families Need Fathers Scotland, called on the Scottish Government to conduct an urgent analysis of the disparities between male and female school attainment.