Cambridge Assessment International Education looks at encouraging more young women to pursue STEM

December 09, 2021

Women have worked on some of the world’s most important scientific discoveries, including playing a key role in the development of the Covid-19 vaccines. Last year, a Sri Lankan scientist, Dr. Champika Ellawala Kankanamge, was awarded the OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award 2020 for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World and has since appeared in the 2021 Asian Scientist 100 list published by Asia Scientist Magazine. Over the past five years alone, the number of female professors at the University of Cambridge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has increased by around a third (31%)

Despite these positive trends, women remain underrepresented in most STEM-focused university courses and careers. According to UNESCO, just 29 percent of those working in science research and development are women, with a low of 19 percent in South and West Asia and a high of 48 percent in Central Asia. Encouraging more young women to study STEM courses and take up careers in STEM is vital if we are to address this imbalance. To do this successfully, girls must be encouraged towards STEM subjects at an age when they are starting to make choices about their future career paths.

Cambridge Assessment International Education has released new data reinforcing that the run-up to post-16 education is the crucial moment to encourage new generations of female scientists, engineers, programmers, and mathematicians.

Better Representation: Giving an insight into this situation, Mahesh Shrivastava, Regional Director, South Asia, Cambridge Assessment International Education  stated  “The past year has shown us more than ever before, the huge importance of having a global workforce of well-qualified experts working in scientific and mathematical fields. We must continue to attract the best minds to study maths and science, where a better gender representation could help for a number of reasons. When young women see people like them achieving success in STEM fields, they are more likely to aspire to careers in STEM and choose STEM throughout their educational journey and ultimately overcome damaging stereotypes and anxieties. “

Interestingly, there has also been a large-scale and welcome push from businesses in recent years to hire more women and promote diverse female representation in science in global media and television programmes.

Encouragingly, female representation in Sri Lanka is improving year on year, pointing to a bright future for the global workforce. Since 2009, more than 7,400 girls have taken STEM Cambridge IGCSEs/O Levels in Sri Lanka compared to 8,700 boys.

Ensuring STEM Syllabuses are Interesting and Balanced – Shrivastava further explained “We recognise that the content of our syllabuses plays an important part in young people choosing to study particular subjects. By designing interesting maths and science syllabuses, which incorporate a range of topics that can be explored in depth, we help students to develop core skills and an enjoyment of STEM. That is really important to encourage more young people, across both genders, to study STEM courses beyond 16, and attract them into STEM careers.

“Since 2009, there have been more than two million entries from young women across the world for Cambridge IGCSE/O Level STEM courses and they represent about 30% of total entries across all subjects. Our rigorous IGCSE and O Level courses and globally recognised assessments help prepare students for bright careers in science and mathematics. We also ensure assessments for our qualifications provide equal opportunities and when developing exam papers, we ensure the content is fair, can be understood universally and that it avoids bias and cultural differences. “

“It is vital that as a society we do everything we can to encourage more young women to choose STEM, such as recognising and rewarding young scientists; encouraging work experience placements in STEM fields; promoting the work of successful women scientists and mathematicians; and – in our role as an education provider – by ensuring STEM qualifications remain interesting, relevant and an attractive choice. “




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