Gender stereotypes dictating A-level choices

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Attracting women to engineering begins long before university

Gender stereotypes still strongly dictate pupils' A-level choices, analysis of school exam results data from technical and management support services firm AECOM has found.

The research found that the number of male students taking maths rose by 27% to more than 54,000, compared with an increase of 17% for female students to 34,000, between 2009 and 2014. A similar pattern emerged for physics; with a 26% rise in male candidates compared with an 18% increase in females.

Despite this girls are outperforming boys on results day, with 72% of girls achieving grade C or above in science, technology, engineering and maths A-levels, compared with 66% of boys.

AECOM HR director for the UK and Ireland, continental Europe and Africa Charlie Weatherhogg said employers need to think creatively about how to attract and retain female talent.

“A career in the built environment is intellectually challenging and immensely rewarding because you have a real opportunity to make a positive impact on society through the work you do,” he said. “It’s vital work and not gender specific, yet most think of our industry as being a ‘male’ profession.

“Attracting women to engineering and other technical disciplines begins long before university. It’s important to open girls’ minds at a young age, ideally while they are in primary school, to help dispel this myth of ‘male’ jobs.”

Richard Robinson, chief executive, civil infrastructure for EMEA and India at AECOM, added: “Stereotypes about construction sites are still very much in existence but the reality is very different. Young people need to hear about the exciting, intellectually challenging work engineers do to build a better world, from designing sustainable transport and energy infrastructure to protecting people from floods or planning cities of the future.

“Attracting and developing a diverse range of people from a variety of different backgrounds is vital to our success as a business and the projects we deliver,” he said.

“The industry needs to be smarter at tapping into the engineers of the future, in particular young women, many of whom don’t consider engineering a career option.”

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