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Women in STEM | Percentages of Women in STEM Statistics

Women in STEM | Percentages of Women in STEM Statistics

For years women have been underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) university courses and occupations.  Using recent UCAS data from HESA and findings from WISE campaigns, we wanted to take a closer look at some women in STEM statistics. 

From the percentage split for current female students to graduates and professionals working in STEM in the UK, identifying peaks and troughs in these areas can help employers target their recruitment campaigns and increase their diversity. 

At STEM Women we specialise in addressing the gender imbalance in STEM fields by hosting networking events and careers fairs for STEM employers and female students studying a course in these subjects. 

Women in STEM Statistics – General Outlook for Female Students

According the recent UCAS data provided by HESA, 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women.

Core STEM subjects – Female students

2017/18
Number of female students - 112,720 – 35%

Women in STEM

Subject breakdown – Female students 

Women in STEM Statistics

Physical sciences

Female – 22,400 – 39%
Male – 34,800 – 61%
Total - 57,240

Between 2017 and 2018, 39% of students studying physical sciences were female.

Mathematic sciences

Female - 14,100 – 37%
Male - 24,335 – 63%
Total - 38,465

In the same period, the percentage of female students studying mathematical sciences was just 37%.

Computer sciences

Female – 4,525 – 19%
Male – 19,550 – 81%
Total - 24,090

When we looked at the UCAS data for students studying computer sciences related degrees, only 19% were female, with a staggering 81% of students being male.

Engineering and technology

Female – 23,650 – 19%
Male – 102,970 – 81%
Total - 126,660

Similarly, the percentage of female students studying engineering and technology degrees made up a mere 19% of the total students between 2017 and 2018.

Women in STEM Statistics – General Outlook for Female Graduates

Since 2015, the number of women in STEM (women graduating in core STEM subjects) has grown from 22,020, to 24,000 in 2018. On the surface this would appear to show a linear increase, however, due to the more rapid growth in the number of men graduating in these subject areas, the percentage of women in STEM has fluctuated from 25%, down to 24%, and finally up to 26% in 2018.

Core STEM subjects – Female Graduates 

2015 – 22,020 – 25%
2016 – 22,340 – 24%
2017 – 22,950 – 25%
2018 – 24,000 – 26%

Percentage of Women in STEM

The UCAS data shows that year-on-year, core STEM subjects have seen only a small increase of around 1,000 female students. This shows that efforts to encourage women to enter into science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields has been somewhat successful.

Subject breakdown – Female Graduates

women in stem stats

Physical science

2015/16 – 7,505 – 40%
2016/17 – 8,015 – 41%
2017/18 – 8,435 – 42%

From 2015 to 2018, the number of women graduating in physical science-related degrees has increased by 2%, which equates to approximately 930 more students. This is equivalent to an increase of roughly 500 graduates year-on-year.

Mathematical science

2015/16 – 3,620 – 39%
2016/17 – 3,765 – 39%
2017/18 – 3,690 – 39%

In mathematical sciences the number of women grew from 3,620 in 2015/2016 to 3,765 in 2016/17, however, the percentage overall remained static at 39% for both years.

In 2017/18, the number of female mathematical sciences graduates dipped slightly from 3,765 to 3,690 – the only core STEM subject area to see a decrease. However, the proportion of graduates who are female has remained consistent at 39%.

Engineering and technology

2015/16 – 4,480 – 15%
2016/17 – 4,700 – 15%
2017/18 – 5,050 – 15%

Disappointingly, the percentage of female engineering and technology graduates has remained constantly low at 15% from 2015 to 2018. However, the exact number of female students has in fact increased by roughly 570 over the period.

Computer science

2015/16 – 2,925 – 16%
2016/17 – 3,020 – 15%
2017/18 – 3,220 – 15%

Computer science-related degrees also see a relatively low percentage of female graduates. From 2015 to 2018, the percentage has gone from 16% to 15%, where it has remained unchanged.

The overall number of computer science graduates who are female has actually seen an increase year-on-year, but this has only maintained the same percentage overall due to more men opting to study the subject.

Women in STEM Statistics – General Outlook for Female STEM Workforce

Following our findings from UCAS data provided by HESA, we took a look at some of the Women in STEM statistics from the 2018 workforce WISE campaign. The organisation uses the Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey data for generating statistics on women in the UK STEM workforce.  

Overall, WISE found that the STEM sector is continuing to grow at a rapid rate. From 2017, core STEM employment had increased by 6.3%, which equates to more than 6 times that of the total rise in the UK’s overall employment rate.

Women in STEM workforce

2016 – 802,848 – 21%
2017 – 864,278 – 23%
2018 – 908,318 – 22%

women in stem uk

Since 2016, the number of women working in STEM fields has increased by 105,470, which has taken the total number over the 900,000 mark for the first time. However, the increasing number of men working in these sectors has led to roughly a 1% drop in the percentage of women in the core STEM workforce from 2017 to 2018.

Subject breakdown – STEM workforce

women in stem subjects statistics

Engineering professionals

2016 – 36,734 – 8%
2017 – 48,449 – 11%
2018 – 57,788 – 12%

Over the past five years, the number of women working as engineering professionals has more than doubled, with the number nearly reaching 58,000 in 2018. This is positive data; however, the overall percentage split is still very low.

Science professionals

2016 – 64,563 – 41%
2017 – 57,372 – 42%
2018 – 60,039 – 43%

Women in STEM statistics for science professionals continues to show positive results for a growing gender diversity in these roles. Women now make up 43.2% of the total science professional workforce.

Science and Engineering technicians

2016 – 75,129 – 27%
2017 – 97,064 – 27%
2018 – 90,998 – 27%

Between 2017 and 2018, roughly the equivalent numbers of men and women left the science and engineering technician workforce. This explains why the percentage of female workers has remained constant at 27%, but fewer women were actually employed in these roles.

IT Professionals

2016 – 183,149 – 18%
2017 – 172,411 – 17%
2018 – 178,548 – 16%

Although the medium-term trend shows female numbers increasing in IT professional roles in 2017, the numbers of men working in these roles are increasing at a faster rate, so the female proportion of the IT professional workforce is still only 16.2% in 2018, (14.3% in 2014).

IT Technicians

2016 – 43,087 – 19%
2017 – 46,523 – 19%
2018 – 46,940 – 17%

When looking at the number of women working as IT Technicians, it seems as though the figures have increased from 2016 to 2018. However, the percentage trends tell a slightly different story. Because the number of men working as IT Technicians has increased at a rapid rate, the overall percentage of women working as IT Technicians remained static between 2016 and 2017, and then fell from 2017 to 2018.

Since 2011, there have been more than 55,000 more men brought into these roles, while over 3,000 women have been lost.


Women in STEM statistics - Conclusion

From our Women in STEM statistics, it is clear that there is still more to be done to reduce the gender gap in STEM fields.

Overall, the percentage of female graduates with core STEM degrees is steadily growing, however, the split is still just 26%. This figure is also translated in the female STEM workforce, with women making up 22%. This shows that some work needs to be done to encourage women to both study these subjects, and transition into the workforce.

Specifically, computer science and engineering and technology fields show the largest gender imbalances, from current students, to graduates and the workforce figures.

Physical science-related degrees have seen a year on year increase in the number of female graduates, showing that efforts to encourage women to study chemistry and physics-based subjects have been successful.

Following recent A level results day, it was reported that female students studying science now outnumbered males, 50.3% to 49.7%. This highlights that efforts to encourage young girls to engage with sciences at school have been successful. The data revealed that overall biology was the most popular STEM A-level for females, making up 63% of the total students, female chemists also outnumbered males proportionally, however, physics was still dominated by male students, making up 77% of entries. There is still clearly work to be done to encourage young women to take up science, especially physics, courses, and help them to transition from A levels to university and beyond.

At STEM Women, we’re on a mission to address this gender imbalance. We use UCAS data and workforce data to target specific courses and locations to attract the best female STEM students looking to enter into related fields and invite them to our networking and graduate careers events. Our events provide employers with the opportunity to introduce their graduate opportunities, speak on a panel, list their job roles online and reach out to the attendees immediately after an event. From sponsorship and stands at careers events, to job boards and recruitment consultants that specialise in sourcing the very best talent, get in touch with us today for more information.

Enjoy our Women in STEM statistics blog? Check out our piece focused on women in technology and find out how the industry has changed over the years.