Number of women taking computing degrees grows

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The number of women choosing to take computing degrees has risen over the past three years, according to research from BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

When looking at figures from UCAS, JCQ and SQA, BCS found the number of female students being accepted onto computing degree courses had grown by 23% since 2019 – a higher percentage increase than any other degree subject.

Julia Adamson, managing director for education and public benefit at BCS, said: “The surging growth in popularity of computing degrees, especially with young women, is striking and important for the future success of fields like artificial intelligence [AI]. The UK urgently needs a diverse influx of talented, ethical professionals to develop world-class capacity in areas like cyber security, data science and AI.

“The gender gap in computing is closing at degree level, but it’s still far too wide and we need to improve on women making up 22% of tech specialists. Diverse teams make every member of that team a better engineer, better able to design and deliver inclusive solutions which meet the needs of society.”

The UK is currently suffering from a technology skills gap that sees many firms fishing from the same small pool of experienced candidates for talent.

While many believe encouraging more young people, and especially young women, into the sector could help to solve this problem, there are many reasons young people either steer clear of the sector or leave it.

The biggest rise in women taking computing degrees was in those aged 18 – the age of a majority of people starting university degrees – where the number of 18-year-old women taking computing at degree level has increased by 47% over the past three years.

While this is higher than the increase in 18-year-old men taking the subject – the number of men of this age group taking computing degrees has increased by 29% over the past three years – the number of men taking computing subjects at degree level is still significantly higher than the number of women.

The number of women in the technology sector has remained low and unchanging for a number of years, although there has been a shift towards the positive over the past year.

Male students outnumber female students 4.3 to one, according to BCS, which found 27,235 men were taking computing degrees compared with 6,450 women.

Looking at data from UCAS, BCS claimed the 34,185 people accepted onto computing undergraduate degree courses in the UK this year was 11% higher than last year’s figure. Earlier this year, BCS found applications for the subject saw the biggest increase of any university subject in the UK.

BCS noted a majority of those who are joining undergraduate courses in computing this year come from state schools across the UK, with 2% to 3% coming from independent schools and around 8% from further education.

In the past, computing degree graduates have seen high levels of unemployment, but the government and the tech sector are beginning to shift towards an on-the-job training, upskilling and lifelong learning attitude, hoping this will increase the digital skills of individuals both in the tech sector and outside it.

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