The Schools Minister has called for girls’ “misconceptions” about science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) to be challenged as new data shows that boys generally prefer the subjects.
Research by the Department for Education published on Monday shows that the proportion of boys whose favourite subject is in a Stem field is almost twice that for girls.
Of those surveyed, 59% of boys picked a Stem subject as their favourite, compared with just 32% of girls.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb has called for politicians, teachers and parents to try to change the attitudes of female school pupils.
In a statement on Monday, which is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, he will say: “There is growing demand for Stem skills, particularly for sectors such as engineering, construction and manufacturing, and it’s essential that gender is no barrier to ensuring that all young people have the knowledge and skills to succeed in our outward-looking and dynamic economy.”
The research, based on a longitudinal study of 10,010 15-year-olds in 2015, also found that the proportion of male pupils who ranked a Stem subject as the one they are best at was 60%, compared with 33% for girls.
Mr Gibb added: “We’ve made considerable progress in increasing girls’ participation in Stem subjects since 2010, with the proportion of girls taking Stem A-levels increasing by a quarter, and 25% more women accepted onto full-time Stem undergraduate courses.
“We are determined to continue this trend, and that’s why we are funding programmes to increase the take-up of maths, computing and physics, and have reformed the school curriculum to make sure it meets the needs of employers.
“This research, however, shows that certain misconceptions are still prevalent, and we all have a part to play, including parents and teachers, to dispel misconceptions about Stem subjects and help encourage our scientists of future generations.”
Boys are also more likely to name a Stem subject as the most likely to lead to a future job (69%) than girls (51%).
Of those who named a tem subject when asked what they planned to study at A-level female pupils formed the minority, particularly in engineering (14%), computing (15%) and physics (22%).
However both sexes broadly agreed that Stem subjects led to the highest paid jobs.
When asked to name the subject leading to the highest paid jobs, 81% of boys and 77% of girls named one from Stem.