Work to tackle gender stereotypes around Stem subjects in schools has made “no real progress” in recent years, MSPs have been told.
In a parliamentary debate on women in science, technology, engineering and maths, Scottish Labour shadow education secretary Iain Gray – a former physics teacher – said that that there was “worrying evidence” from schools.
“We see that gender stereotypes are still having an impact on Stem uptake and opportunities, and no real progress has been made since 2012,” he said.
Mr Gray cited the recent Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) report Tapping all our Talents 2018: A progress review of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Scotland, and also Scottish Labour research published yesterday.
The latter showed that, in information technology-related college courses, such as computer science and software development, there had been “a significant drop in the number of women enrolling”.
The RSE report, meanwhile, “showed that in some areas of further and higher education we have seen, at best, only slight improvements with regard to women in Stem, such as a 2 per cent increase in undergraduate engineers; at worst, and in many areas, we have seen further decline”.
The gender divide in science subjects
Mr Gray, speaking in Parliament yesterday, said that the “starkest gender gap” was in “computer-related studies”, with the percentage of young women studying such subjects at National 3-5 “plummeting from 32 per cent in 2012 to 18 per cent in 2018”.
He added: “Despite the fact that women are underrepresented in the classroom in many Stem subjects in schools, we should note carefully that women have better attainment than men in every subject at National 5 level.
Science minister Richard Lochhead said: “I thank Iain Gray for bringing the debate to the chamber. I agree with virtually every single point that he made during his very fine opening speech.”
Mr Lochhead, who is also minister for further and higher education, added: “The government is absolutely committed to addressing gender inequality across society, the economy and education. Only yesterday, the first minister [Nicola Sturgeon] renewed her commitment to tackling gender inequality when she met her national advisory council on women and girls and promised to give full and careful consideration to its first annual report, which was published last week.
“We have all agreed today that there is no place for gender bias and gender stereotyping, which limit the achievements of women and girls in life or in Stem or any other sector.”