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CVER Research Paper
Gender and Socio-Economic Differences in STEM Uptake and Attainment
Emily McDool and Damon Morris
March 2020
Paper No' CVERDP029:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: I24; J16; I21

Tags: vocational education; stem; gender

The underrepresentation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) occupations is a world-wide phenomenon and a concern for policy makers. This is the case in the UK where a shortage of STEM skills is also being encountered. Marked gender imbalances in STEM study in higher education and A-level study and have been widely documented. Gender gaps are also apparent in vocational post-16 education though the existence and causes of these imbalances have, to date, received little attention in existing research and public policy. This paper uses administrative data on a full cohort of school leavers in 2005/06 to explore the extent of gender imbalances in STEM qualifications attempted and achieved in both academic and vocational post-16 education routes in England. We find that gender differentials in the uptake of STEM subjects in vocational qualifications are much starker than they are in A-Levels and that while the roles of ability, socio-economic status and school characteristics in explaining gender differentials differ with the education route taken, their power in explaining these gaps is limited.