British science needs girls, says minister

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The Independent Online
THOUSANDS of girls must be persuaded to take up science A-levels and degrees if Britain is to overcome serious industrial skills shortages, Joan Ruddock, the minister for women, said yesterday. She said the proportion of girls taking up A-levels in subjects such as chemistry, maths and computing was too low, and called for action to bring them up to the level of boys.

Ms Ruddock told an audience of 600 schoolgirls that there were widespread skills shortages in science-, technology- and engineering-based industries. She said: "These skill shortages can probably only be filled if you girls get in there and get the education required ... The statistics are very troubling indeed because we are a technological society and we need to compete in the world."

She said only 21 per cent of girls took A-level physics and 16 per cent computing. "We want girls, not just to have jobs ... but to have real careers in science, engineering and technology. We want to see that women are equal and that means in public life and on public bodies."

She was speaking at a conference at the Guildhall in London organised by Gresham College in the City and the Girls School Association.

Professor Susan Greenfield, Gresham Professor of Physic at Oxford, who organised the event, said: "To not do science for the wrong reasons is a matter of concern. We wanted to assess what could be done to inform girls about science and not force them to do science but get them to consider it as an option."