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Women into science and engineering? Gendered participation in higher education STEM subjects


School of Education, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK. E-mail:


This paper considers gendered patterns of participation in post-compulsory STEM education. It examines the trajectory of learning that takes students from A-level qualifications, through undergraduate work and into employment or further study. It also uses a long-term view to look at the best available evidence to monitor participation and attainment over an extended period of time. The findings suggest that almost three decades of initiatives to increase participation in STEM subjects have had little noticeable impact on the recruitment data and gendered patterns of participation persist in several subject areas. This is despite more women entering HE and little gender difference in the entry qualifications for STEM subjects. While more women are studying science, as broadly conceived, than ever before, recruitment to key areas, namely physics and engineering remains stagnant. However, for those women who do remain in the ‘science stream’ patterns of employment in graduate careers and further study appear relatively equitable.