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What we're doing to address gender imbalance in physics

For more than 30 years there has been very little change in the proportion of girls studying physics post-16. This is a pressing issue of social equality, justice, and mobility. Currently, only around 20% of students progressing on to A-level are girls, and around 30% of Scottish higher physics students are female. We proactively tackle this imbalance through education research, partnerships, and work in schools.

Current projects

We are currently running the following gender balance programmes:

  • Improving Gender Balance (England) is a national research trial in secondary schools. The aim is to increase girls' progression to A-level physics in partner schools.
  • Gender Action is an award programme which promotes and supports a whole-school approach to challenging stereotypes. Gender Action is a partnership between the Institute of Physics, King's College London, UCL Institute of Education and the University Council of Modern Languages.
  • Improving Gender Balance (Ireland) is a three-year national collaborative project led by CASTeL at Dublin City University, in partnership with the Institute of Physics and Science Foundation Ireland.
  • Improving Gender Balance (Wales) has been funded by the Welsh Government and the Waterloo Foundation for one year. The project will work with two secondary schools and their feeder primary schools and early years settings to put in place tailored and specific support around gender. 


These resources are shaped by research and help schools to address gender imbalance and promote equality.

Reports and research

We’ve published several reports investigating the gender imbalance of physics A-level and issues around equality in education.


Cover image for Why not physics?

Why not physics? A snapshot of girls’ uptake at A-level

Using data for students in England from the National Pupil Database, this report considers the influences of school type, science route at GCSE and GCSE performance on girls' uptake of physics A-level.

Download the report (PDF, 4.38 MB)




Cover image for Improving Gender Balance report

Improving Gender Balance: Reflections on the impact of interventions in schools

Findings from the Improving Gender Balance and Drayson pilot projects, and recommendations for good practice.

Read the introduction and download the report
IGB results and recommendations report cover

Improving Gender Balance - Results and recommendations from the IOP's work in schools

A summary of the Improving Gender Balance and Drayson pilot projects.

Download the report (PDF, 524 KB)


Cover image for Opening Doors report

Opening Doors: A guide to good practice in countering gender stereotyping in schools

Case studies and key recommendations of how schools can explore equality issues across the whole school.

Read the introduction and download the report


Cover image for Closing Doors report

Closing Doors: Exploring gender and subject choice in schools

An exploration of national data on progression to A-level in selected subjects, including physics. The report draws attention to the gender imbalances that exist on A-level courses.

Read the report (PDF, 1.27MB)


Cover image for It's Different for Girls report

It's Different for Girls: The influence of schools

Using data from the National Pupil Database, this report explores how girl's uptake of A-level physics varies by schools type.

Download the report (PDF, 1.53MB)


Girls into physics action research 2009 report cover

Girls into physics: Action Research

The evaluation report from our 2008 school-based action research programme, including recommendations for classroom practice.

Read more


Cover image for Girls in the Physics Classroom report

Girls in the Physics Classroom: A review of the research on girls' participation in physics

A summary of the existing research on girls' participation in physics, highlighting common threads and suggesting effective strategies.

Download the report (PDF, 665KB)

Further information

If you need any further information, please email