How physics gender gap starts in the classroom

Some progress has been made in encouraging girls to study A-level physics, but not enough, says report.

Physics classroom

Some progress has been made in encouraging girls to study physics at A-level, according to a report by the Institute of Physics (IoP).

In 2016, 1.9% of girls chose A-level physics, up from 1.6% in 2011.

But that compared with 6.5% for boys in 2016 and 44% of schools in England still send no girls at all to study the subject.

The IoP said physics-based skills were essential for many future careers, from artificial intelligence to aerospace.

However, the gender balance at physics A-level in England's schools has changed little in decades, with only 20% being female.

"There is no evidence to suggest any intrinsic differences in ability or interest to explain why girls and boys choose technical subjects differently," said IoP President, Prof Dame Julia Higgins.

"The consequences of girls' choices at school are that many rewarding and fulfilling routes are closed off to them."

Snapshot

The report, Why Not Physics? - A Snapshot of Girls' Uptake at A-level, found only 1.9% of girls chose A-level physics in 2016, compared with 6.5% of boys.

In 2011, 1.6% of girls chose the subject, compared with 6.1% of boys.

In contrast, 8% of girls and 12.3% of boys progressed to maths A-level. In subjects such as English and psychology, the trend is reversed, with far more girls than boys choosing the subjects.

The report makes a number of recommendations:

  • Schools should routinely monitor by gender the numbers of students progressing to physics A-level
  • They must make serious efforts to address problems where they exist and challenge gender stereotypes and unconscious biases

The IoP is hosting a summit on Thursday to tackle gender inequality in the classroom and to debate new ways to close the gender gap in the take-up of physics A-level.

"An ill-judged quip that girls 'can't do maths', or 'physics is too hard', can lead to girls making life-changing decisions that alter the subjects they study or the career they pursue," said Prof Higgins in a foreword to the report.

"Women in physics are still in the minority, and this lack of visibility preserves the myth and cements the fact that physics is simply not a subject for girls."

Skills gap

The lack of girls studying physics to a higher level also had consequences for the UK economy, the report said.

Physics-based skills are required in many growth areas, from aerospace to artificial intelligence, and thousands more workers need to be trained every year to keep the UK economy competitive.

A recent P study found that closing the gender gap in physics would take hundreds of years, given the current rate of progress.

Research analysing the names of authors listed on millions of scientific papers found physics, computer science, maths and chemistry had the fewest women, while nursing and midwifery had the most.

Without further interventions, the gender gap was likely to persist for generations, said scientists from the University of Melbourne.

Forecasts suggest it will take a very long time to close the gender gap in some fields, with predictions of 320 years for nursing, 280 years for computer science, 258 years for physics and 60 years for mathematics.

Follow Helen on Twitter.




Date: 17 May 2018 | Source: BBC

More UK News

Prince Philip unhurt after car crash - palace

The Duke of Edinburgh has been involved in car crash but was not injured, Buckingham Palace says

Snow and ice cause Scotland travel disruption

Several roads are closed in the north east after ice and snow cause problems for drivers

Solo 45: Rape accused grime rapper 'not a monster'

Grime musician Andy Anokye "reasonably believed" the women had consented, his trial heard

Owner gets stuck up tree trying to rescue own cat

Harry's owner Maria Parry realised the tree was "really high" after she climbed it to free him

Nursing mother smashes 268-mile Montane Spine Race record

Jasmin Paris expressed milk for her 14-month-old daughter during the gruelling Montane Spine Race

Child killer David Gaut 'murdered' by Elliotstown neighbours

David Gaut was stabbed to death after serving a 32-year prison sentence for killing a 15-month-old
View More

More Telford News

 MP's warning over Broseley's Broxit move

Broseley Town Council has been told it cannot choose to complete a "Broxit..

 Future Fit: A&E recommendation rubber stamped

Health officials have confirmed their choice of Royal Shrewsbury Hospital ..

 Row over key document in Shropshire's Future Fit discussions

A row has broken out over a key document in Shropshire's Future Fit discus..

 Four admit role in violent family fracas in Telford

The trial of seven men accused of leaving two people with serious injuries..

 There is no place for Future Fit says leader of Telford & Wrekin Council

The Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council is calling on health bosses to ..

 Former coronary care nurse takes top business role at UK medical supply firm

A former coronary care nurse has taken a top role with one of the UK’s lead..
View More

Telford Businesses

Calendar Countdown

Upcoming Events in Telford

19 Jan 2019

Saturday 19 January 7.30pm


Tickets £25

View Details

25 Jan 2019

Friday 25 January 7.30pm


£22.50

View Details

31 Jan 2019

Thursday 31 January 7.30pm


Tickets £23

Concession £21.50

View Details

09 Feb 2019

Saturday 9 February 7.30pm


Adult: £26.50

Concessions: £23.50

View Details
View More