Over the last decade, the number of A-Level Maths candidates has been gradually increasing. However, the proportion of female candidates has fallen over this time, from 40.4% of total A-Level Maths candidates in 2009 to 38.5% of the total entries in 20191. This is surprising, given the plethora of initiatives to promote women in STEM over the last decade.
What’s more, the proportion of female candidates getting top grades still lags behind the proportion of male candidates. In 2019, 38.5% of female A-level candidates got an A or above and 13.7% got an A*, the equivalent statistics for men were 41.8% and 18.0% respectively1.
For Further Maths, the numbers are even starker. Last year (2019) of the 13,730 A-level Further Maths candidates, only 28.4% of candidates were female, down from 31.5% a decade earlier (2009).
Amongst top grades in Further Maths, 50.5% of female candidates got an A or above and 21.3% got an A*, the corresponding figures for male candidates were 54.1% and 25.1% respectively. Concerningly, the proportion of female candidates receiving As and A*s in Further Maths was higher in 2010 (when the A* grade was first introduced) at 58.8% and 28% respectively.
A report2 for the Department for Education in 2015 found that achieving 2 or more A levels in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) subjects adds 7.8% to a man’s earnings when compared to just gaining GCSE-level qualifications. Meanwhile, the returns for women are much higher, boosting earnings by 33.1%. This reflects the power of Maths at school to influence earnings in later life. This provides just one reason why we should strive to reduce the gender gap in A-level maths more in the next decade than we have in the last.
It would be wrong to suggest that advancements haven’t been made in women in mathematics more broadly, especially when viewed in a longer-term perspective. However, these statistics demonstrate the continued importance of promoting women in STEM. Take a look at the following websites for more inspiration:
Look out for our next blog exploring some causes of the gender gap and suggesting how STEM learning can be promoted amongst girls in the future!
1 Ofqual. (2020). A level outcomes in England. [online] Available at: https://analytics. ofqual.gov.uk/apps/Alevel/Outcomes/ [Accessed 6 Mar. 2020].
2 London Economics (2015). The earnings and employment returns to A levels. [online] Available at: http://londoneconomics.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/London-Economics-Report-Returns-to-GCE-A-Levels-Final-12-02-2015.pdf [Accessed 6 Mar. 2020].