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Gender Balance in STEM (2015)

Last updated:
12 October 2016

What is this?

This briefing summarises research on the gender differences in participation and attainment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, and explores some of the factors that may lead to these differences.

The briefing describes key findings and summaries of the emerging key areas of research, which are: participation, attainment, key factors and intervention.

Who is this for?

​Teachers, practitioners and others who are involved in planning or supporting science learning for children and young people, and those working to address gender gaps in education.

Link(s) to full research article

PDF file: Looking at gender balance in STEM subjects at school (4.4 MB)
PDF file: References (222 KB)

​About this research

How was the research carried out?

The main focus for research selection is large scale, systematic or meta-analytical reviews and empirical research studies.

What are the strengths of the research methodology?

Although this is not a comprehensive overview of the research in this area, it is designed to be a useful starting point in becoming familiar with relevant research. Some of the research intervention studies have a very small sample size; therefore generalisations cannot necessarily be made.

What is the context for this research?

This briefing was produced to support professional reflection. Education Scotland's Corporate Plan explicitly seeks to develop capacity in promoting the translation of knowledge into action for systematic improvement.

Reflective questions

The following questions may provide a stimulus for discussion:

  • Is there a difference in the engagement, attainment and participation of boys and girls in STEM subjects in our establishment, or in their perception of STEM subjects? What evidence do we have to support this?

  • How do the research findings reflect the experience of our establishment?

  • What steps have we already taken to address gender issues in STEM subjects and how successful have they been?

  • How can we engage with parents and the wider community to tackle the cultural issues that prevail around girls and STEM?

  • How could we ensure a coherent whole-school or setting approach to gender in STEM?

About the author(s)

The briefing was developed by the Analytical Services Team at Education Scotland, working in partnership with educational staff with responsibility for STEM.

Related research/reading

Homer, M., Ryder, J. and Donnelly, J. (2013), Sources of differential participation rates in school science: the impact of curriculum reform. British Educational Research Journal, 39: 248–265.


This briefing is not a comprehensive overview of published research in a particular area. Nor is it a definitive statement of policy or a recommendation to adopt a particular approach.

Full reference

Education Scotland (2015). Looking at gender balance in STEM subjects at school. Livingston: Education Scotland.



Sciences; Knowledge and research; Science Technology Engineering Mathematics; Equality

​Related links

GTC Scotland research