From education to employment

Attitudes to #STEM subjects by gender at key stage 4

Speaking on International Day of Women and Girls in Science today (11 Feb), School Standards Minister Nick Gibb calls to challenge girls’ misconceptions of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

Research into the attitudes of male and female students aged 15 to 16 towards STEM subjects.

This research brief examines young people’s attitudes towards STEM subjects when they were age 15/16 in Key Stage 4 (KS4). It is based on data from the third wave of the second Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE2).

In 2015, 10,010 young people in Year 11 were interviewed for LSYPE2. This was an important year for the young people, with the vast majority sitting their GCSEs.

Here, their responses to a range of questions about STEM subjects are reported.

The subjects that have been classified as ‘STEM’ in this brief are mathematics, science and IT/technology.

Engineering was also included when looking at which A level subjects pupils were planning to study.

Main findings

There were significant gendered differences in attitudes towards STEM and non-STEM subjects among KS4 pupils:

  • Proportionately, female pupils were less likely to rank a STEM-related subject first for enjoyment: 32% compared to 59% of males.
  • Females were also less likely to consider themselves to be best at a STEM subject: 33% compared to 60% of males.
  • When asked about which subjects were most likely to lead to a future job, 69% of male pupils named a STEM subject compared to 51% of females.
    • More males (36%) than females (23%) felt that mathematics was most likely to lead to a job in the future; the most common answer for females was English.
  • Like male pupils, the majority of females thought that STEM subjects were most likely to lead to higher paid jobs (77% compared to 81%).
    • Science was thought to yield the highest salary by both genders: 31% of males, 39% of females.
  • Males were more likely to plan to take a STEM subject at A level, with the exception of biology: 26% of males compared to 34% of females.
    • The largest difference in planned take-up of a STEM subjects at A level was for physics (30% male, 8% female) and IT (16% compared to 3%).


Attitudes towards STEM subjects by gender at KS4

Ref: ISBN 978-1-78105-997-5, DFE-RB891PDF, 528KB, 15 pages


This research looks at the different attitudes of male and female students in key stage 4, when thinking about STEM subjects. It examines which subjects they thought were:

  • most enjoyable
  • the students’ best subject
  • most likely to lead to a job
  • most likely to lead to the highest salaries
  • taken up at A level

It is based on data from the second Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE2).

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