AN ACADEMIC has said schools should "give up" trying to attract more girls into traditionally male subjects such as physics, computing and engineering.

Dr Gijsbert Stoet said there was little point trying to bridge the gender divide in education as differences between boys and girls meant they would always be drawn to different subjects.

The academic, who is based at Glasgow University's Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change, said: "We probably need to give up on the idea that we will get many female engineers or male nurses."

He added that initiatives to reduce gender divides "completely deny human biology and nature".

Dr Stoet made the comments at the British Education Studies Association conference in Glasgow. He argued policymakers needed to make a more evidence-based approach to education.

He said: "We need to have a national debate on why we find it so important to have equal numbers. Do we really care that only five per cent of the programmers are women? Well, actually, I don't care who programmes my computers. A wealthy, democratic society can afford to let people do what they want.

"What is better? To have 50 per cent of female engineers who do not really like there work but say, 'Yeah, well, I did it for the feminist cause.' Or do you want three per cent or female engineers who say, 'I really like my job'?"

Dr Stoet further argued that while girls got more media attention, it was boys who generally did worse at school.

He said: "Nobody seems to be that interested that boys have problems. We have, as human beings, a natural tendency to see woman as vulnerable and needing help. But if it's a boy who needs help, he's responsible for himself."

But Stuart Farmer, from the Association for Science Education, said that while there was poor uptake among girls for ­physical sciences, computer science and engineering, the "influence of wider societal pressures and norms should not be underestimated".

He said: "This starts with things as simple as pink for a girl baby and blue for a boy baby, and goes on to things such as segregated toys and books in shops, although this is starting to be addressed."

Maureen McKenna, a maths teacher and Glasgow education director, said that gender- specific role models "absolutely" had an effect. She said they could "change stereotypical views and widen young people's choices for future careers".