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Females now make up less than one tenth of computer science students in the UK

Less than one tenth of computer science students in the UK are female, and some schools report that they have no female ICT students at all.

According to the latest figures published by the Department for Education, 0.4 per cent of females taking A-levels chose computer science in 2017, compared with 4.5 per cent of males.

The statistics are similar across other STEM subjects, with 18.1 per cent of females taking A-levels choosing maths, and 2.3 per cent choosing further maths, compared with 33 per cent and 7.1 per cent for males respectively.

One school Computing spoke to stated that it has no girls on its computer science course this year.

“Over the last five years 21 per cent of the GCSE ICT groups have been girls, although in the last two years there has only been 1 girl in each class and in the current GCSE Computer Science class there are no girls,” said Fiona Usher, head of Computing ICT at Battle Abbey School.

This fall in female representation is replicated at A-level.

“In A-level ICT 28 per cent have been girls, although in the last three years there has only been one girl in each year.”

Usher stated that around 20 per cent of her ICT students go on to study a related course at degree level, but none of them have been girls in recent years.

She said that this could be down to the way students perceive the subject, and that recent curriculum changes have not helped.

“I think the whole perception of Computer Science from a girls point of view is that it is a difficult, boring subject that is primarily for ‘nerdy’ boys. Also they don’t want to be the only girl in the class and are influenced by what their friends do.

“They are also happy to do the more traditional ‘female’ subjects such as history, languages and the arts. I also don’t think the new Computing national curriculum for key stage 3 has helped as it is very dry and theoretical which doesn’t encourage them to continue with it.”

Usher argued that the government has a part to play in encouraging more females into IT-focused education.

“I think the Government should invest in more training for Computer Science teachers and particularly encourage more female teachers to take up this role. I also think they need to run more fun, interactive sessions to encourage students to take the subject up at GCSE and include more hardware for students to use e.g. robotics.

“Students hear a lot about the successful males in Computer Science but not much about successful females so they have no role models. I must admit when I researched this there do not seem to be many around.”

Computing has launched the Women in IT Excellence Awards, designed to help promote successful female role models, and to encourage more women into the career.

The awards are open now. If you have a successful female colleague working in an IT role, enter them here.

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