A Level Results: What do they mean for women in SET?

20 August 2008

After the release of the 2008 A Level results showing a boost in girls taking and passing science, engineering and technology (SET) related subjects, Annett Williams, director of the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology reflects on the achievements and their relevance to the industry.

Williams would like the increase in girls taking SET subjects to be reflected in industry
Williams would like the increase in girls taking SET subjects to be reflected in industry

As is clear from this year’s A Level results, more girls than ever are taking subjects related to SET and are out-performing their male counterparts at this level. However, there remains a significant under-representation of females in the SET workforce and it is estimated that of the 600,000 women with SET qualifications, only 25 per cent are currently working in the field with 360,000 working in other sectors and 90,000 not employed. This represents a pool of untapped talent which, in this time of skills shortages, the UK can’t afford to ignore if we are to be an ‘innovation nation’.

There are a number of factors that may affect whether this year’s female A Level students go on to pursue further study and careers in SET. While some may be put off by the prospect of working in what is still a largely male dominated environment, others may be attracted to alternative career paths where they may have stronger female role models.

Many young people in general are unaware of the variety of exciting opportunities careers in SET can open up and, girls in particular, often don’t see the potential for using their creative skills. The UKRC calls on universities and employers to make courses and careers in SET more attractive to females entering the industries and implement policies such as flexible working to retain them and give them equal opportunities to progress.

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