Record uptake of females in computer science, but gender gap remains large

  • Record numbers of female students took computer science as an A-level this year, with an increase of 23% on 2019, according to an analysis of A-level results data by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

    Female students were seven times more likely to choose computer science in 2020 than they were in 2015. This represents a 301% increase.

    Overall entries for A-level Computer Science also rose this year, up by 12%, while a record 30,090 students started computer science degree courses in 2020, an increase of 7.6% on 2019.

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    Women account for 16.2% of all computer science university students in 2020, up 1% on last year, according to BCS’ analysis.

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    Although the latest UCAS data on 2020 applications for undergraduate computer science degrees shows that the gender gap has narrowed by 1.3% in the last year, men in the UK are still 10 times more likely than women to be studying a computer science subject in the current age.

    If this rate continues, it will be 30 years before there is gender parity in computer science degrees.

    The slow uptake continues to grow though, albeit at a snail’s pace, with applications from females for computer science degrees increasing by 12% compared to 0.9% for males.

    For the seventh year in succession the gender gap in computer science A-level has slowly closed, with a slight increase of women now making up 15% of all entries to the subject.

    BCS also found that over 34% of women achieved 'high' (A-A*) Computer Science A-level passes in 2020, compared with 26% of men.

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    Julia Adamson, Director of Education at the professional body for IT said: “More students than ever before have chosen to study Computer Science at university. That is important because the government has stated that tech skills should be the ‘rocket fuel’ which powers the UK’s economic recovery.

    “The establishment of the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) has also ensured that more young people are getting the positive experience of computing at school that opens up the possibility of further study.

    “These new entrants to the profession must go on to develop an ethical focus that guides their careers; this is vital if we want to build public confidence in applications like AI and algorithms that make decisions about our lives and in which trust is currently low.

    “Equally important is closing the persistent gap between men and women choosing to specialise in IT, although the divide has narrowed slightly this year. The visible and inspirational influence of organisations like Coding Black Females is helping to strengthen and diversify the range of new talent coming into the industry.”

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    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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