A worrying statistic for the tech industry was revealed amid freshly-released A-level data – only 9.8% of those completing a computing course were girls.
It comes amid a storm in Silicon Valley over the number of women employed in the tech industry.
Experts agree that the world faces a digital skills shortage and that a more even gender balance is crucial.
One industry body worried that too few boys were also choosing the subject.
“Today’s announcement that nearly 7,600 students in England took A-level computing means it’s not going to be party time in the IT world for a long time to come,” said Bill Mitchell, director of education at the IT Chartered Institute, BCS.
He said that it fell well short of the 40,000 level that “we should be seeing”.
But he added that the fact so few girls were taking the subject was particularly worrying.
“At less than 10%, the numbers of girls taking computing A-level are seriously low.”
“We know that this a problem starting at primary school and it’s something that we need to address at all levels throughout education.
“As a society, we need to make sure that our young women are leaving education with the digital skills they need to secure a worthwhile job, an apprenticeship or go on to further study.”
The figures, from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), are not all bad news. They reveal that there has been a 34% rise in the number of female students sitting the computer science exam, up to 816 from 609 in 2016.
Google engineer James Damore caused controversy this month when he penned a memo suggesting that there were fewer women at Google because of biological differences. The search giant sacked him over the remarks, saying they were “offensive”.
A recent survey of 1,000 university students conducted by audit firm KPMG suggested that only 37% of young women were confident they had the tech skills needed by today’s employers.
A total of 73% said that they had not considered a graduate job in technology.
Aidan Brennan, KPMG’s head of digital transformation, said: “The issue here isn’t around competency – far from it – but rather how businesses understand the underlying capability of an individual and how to unlock it.
“I think this research highlights the work that needs to be done to show the next generation that when it comes to a career in tech, gender isn’t part of the equation.
“Competition for jobs is tough and we know that female job seekers can be less likely to apply for a role than their male counterparts if they don’t feel they already possess every prerequisite the job demands.”
Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, who founded the charity Stemettes to persuade more girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths has her own view about the low number of girls taking A-level computing.
“Girls often don’t want to be the only one in the class so they tend not to pick the subject when it is an option,” she said.
“Also, it’s often not even an option in a lot of schools so it’s an uphill battle but fortunately, a lot of computer science courses take A-level maths students, so there is a very viable route for girls into the course itself and related courses.”