The small minority of girls who take special two-year vocational courses in science and technology in the United Kingdom tend to outscore the boys, though the gender balance in such disciplines remains overwhelmingly lopsided.

Girls taking the country's BTEC high-level courses in STEM disciplines -- science, technology, engineering, and math -- may hearken a different future for the country's professional class, however.

"When girls do sign up to these vital subjects they flourish," Rod Bristow, who runs the company that administers the courses, told reporters.

Bristow says the number of girls taking the high-level courses in STEM subjects is growing, but from a small base. This year, girls composed just 5 percent of students taking engineering at "level two," for a total of 810 girls. Still, the numbers were up from 680 the previous year.

Of girls taking level two courses, 37 percent gained a "distinction" in comparison with 20 percent of the boys. At level three, 14 percent of girls taking engineering classes achieved the highest grade, beating boys at 9 percent. And while girls only composed 38 percent of the cohort in information technology at level two, 31 percent gained distinction in comparison to 21 percent of boys. In level three, they beat boys slightly at 15 percent to 12 percent of those making the highest grade, although they composed just 18 percent of students.

"Still too few girls make the next step in a Stem-related career by studying these subjects at university," Bristow said. "This is something educators, business and government all need to work on and put right."

Anna Douglas, director of applied sciences at City and Islington College, said girls need women role models to encourage them into entering STEM fields, in a world that is increasingly dependent upon higher technology.

"We are fortunate to have a number of female science tutors at the college, many of whom are educated to Ph.D level, who act as fantastic role models to young female students," she said. "This provides them with the skills, confidence and drive to pursue rewarding careers through Stem subjects."

British economists say industry in the country is "crying out" for more graduates in STEM disciplines, pointing to girls as a great untapped resource in brainpower. Presently in the UK, only 7 percent of physics professors are women, although the discipline is attracting a 1 to 5 ratio of girls to boys.

Helen Wollaston of the advocacy group Women into Science and Engineering said the the test results indicate that "girls can do science, IT, and engineering."

She added, "At a time when UK industry is crying out for more people with Stem qualifications, we have to get more of this female talent into the workforce."