Fewer girls taking GCSE computing in 2021

Posted by Tilt Recruitment on August 20th, 2021

Fewer girls taking GCSE computing in 2021

Posted by Tilt Recruitment on August 20, 2021

The number of UK students taking computing GCSE rose in 2021 – but the number of girls taking the subject dropped from 16,919 last year to 16,549 this year.

Agata Nowakowska, EMEA vice-president at Skillsoft, called the news “disappointing” and said the industry needed to do more to challenge old-fashioned views: “It’s no coincidence that while most girls show some interest in STEM subjects at 10 or 11, this tends to wane by 15.”

The total number of students studying computing GCSE has seen ups and downs over the past five years, hitting a high of 80,027 in 2019 before dropping to 78,459 in 2020 and then bouncing back up to 79,964 this year. But this is the second year in a row that the number of girls has dropped.

A lack of visible role models, a lack of inclusion in tech, and stereotypes about STEM careers are driving girls away from computing. Many other STEM areas like maths and engineering are also losing girls, yet biology, physics and chemistry saw more female candidates this year.

The girls who did take computing GCSE significantly outperformed the boys, with 48.9% getting As compared with 37.3% of boys, and 87% getting at least a C compared with 81.3% of boys. It’s particularly significant that they achieved these results during the unprecedented adversity of the pandemic.

Past research has found many girls regret having dropped STEM subjects, often saying it was due to stereotypes, and realise that these subjects would have been useful in their careers.

But it’s not too late. Now the government is looking to close the growing tech skills gap by encouraging lifelong learning and giving adults the opportunity to gain tech skills they missed out on at school. That means the girls who are missing from this summer’s computing GCSE results still have a chance to change their minds.

Madhavi Kotecha, engineering team lead for Robotic Pick at Ocado Technology, said, “There’s so much room for learning beyond school – and at any stage of life. Many great tech professionals come through non-traditional routes too, so the door’s never closed.”

Kotecha herself is currently studying for a Master’s in technology management.

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