Women in STEM

We are working with partners to address the under-representation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) courses and careers, to ensure that Scotland's STEM sectors are diverse, equal and prosperous.

We have published a consultation on a STEM Strategy for Education and Training that commits us to increasing diversity in the field, including in relation to gender.

STEM equality at school

The number of passes by girls in STEM subjects at school increased between 2007 and 2016:

  • higher qualifications in maths and computing rose by 6%
  • higher qualifications in chemistry rose by 8%
  • higher qualifications in physics rose by 10%

Nevertheless, we recognise that gender stereotyping is still discouraging girls from taking STEM subjects at school and aspiring to STEM careers.

We are working with schools to develop methods for overcoming gender stereotyping through the Institute of Physics' Improving Gender Balance project.

This project is supported by Education Scotland and funded by Skills Development Scotland, which invested £110,000 in the project between 2016 and 2017. We intend to expand and share learning from this project through the proposed STEM Strategy.

STEM equality at colleges and universities

The number of women studying STEM subjects at college and university has increased dramatically in the last 10 years.

Compared with 2007, in 2016 there were:

  • 27% more female full-time equivalent science and maths students in college
  • 55% more female full-time equivalent engineering students in college
  • 20% more women starting undergraduate STEM courses
  • 36% more women starting postgraduate STEM courses

But there's still room for improvement.

Through the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) we are investing up to £1.5 million over the next three academic years in a programme of equality projects across Scottish colleges and universities.

The SFC is also giving £41,500 to the Equality Challenge Unit each academic year from 2015 to 2018 to support the Athena SWAN Charter. This Charter encourages Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Scotland to commit to advancing the careers of women in all disciplines, including STEM, and has signed up 16 HEIs so far.

As part of our youth employment strategy, the SFC has published a Gender Action Plan that sets out actions it will undertake with colleges, universities and other partners to reduce gender imbalances in college and undergraduate courses.

STEM equality in the workplace

We are addressing the under-representation of women in STEM careers by funding Equate Scotland to:

  • support the recruitment, retention, return and success of women where they are under-represented in STEM workplaces (£200,666 from 2016 to 2017)
  • deliver the CareerWISE programme, which offers female undergraduates paid work placements with STEM employers (79,000 from 2016 to 2017)

We are also:

  • funding Close the Gap, a partnership project focused on tackling the gender pay gap by improving employment practices and cultures and supporting educators and young people at school to challenge gender stereotyping in subject choices and careers (£205,000 from 2016 to 2017)
  • encouraging more women to pursue careers in the digital sector through the ICT and Digital Skills Investment Plan's Digital World campaign, in which we invested £900,000 from 2015 to 2016
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