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Big increase in women studying engineering in last decade, new data shows


Despite university engineering courses still receiving four times more male applications than female, new research has shown a 96% increase in female undergraduate applications from 2011 to 2021.


The research, analysing UCAS data from employment lawyers Richard Nelson LLP, found an increase of 96.49% in female undergraduate applications through UCAS for engineering courses from 2011 to 2021.


However, while the gender statistics for this STEM subject may look impressive, engineering courses still face a significant gender gap, with 125,320 male applicants in 2021 and just 29,650 female. These figures imply the industry still has a long way to go in persuading women to choose engineering as a career.


The research also demonstrates that engineering courses are continuing to attract an increasing number of talent, with the overall figures for applications increasing by a healthy level from the period of 2011 to 2021.


Jayne Harrison, employment lawyer at Richard Nelson LLP said: “The data demonstrates how the employment landscape has changed over the past decade. We have seen a significant rise in the number of females who are interested in studying engineering at university and an influx of women into the workforce. It is encouraging to see the overall rise of applications for engineering courses from undergraduates during the last decade.

”We can see there has been a sharp rise in applications for medicine and dentistry during the pandemic, a period which has shone a light on key workers and the NHS. In this same manner, the data also shows a significant rise in interest for education degrees. Individuals may have been swayed by the increased strain placed on key workers in the NHS and education sector during the pandemic, deciding this is an area they would like to contribute towards.”


Hannah Titley, director at The Golden Circle Tuition, said: “Despite progress towards gender equality in the last 10 years, social norms around gender roles still pervade. Girls are told from a young age that they should be thoughtful, attractive, and altruistic. On the other hand, boys are expected to fulfil an outdated stereotype of being 'tough', being funny and having high-earning job prospects. These gender stereotypes and social expectations to conform influence student choices.


“We need to inform and inspire. Inform girls on what careers are available in science and how these jobs are critical for finding solutions to global challenges - climate change, food security, healthcare. We also need to inspire girls by making these jobs attractive. This generation of young people is inspiring. Global problems are on their radar. We just need to push successful female scientists to the forefront - on social media, TV, Ted Talks, podcasts - to talk about their work, empower young people to get involved, and explain why their job matters.”


Click here for the full results of the research.

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