Students celebrate after getting their exam results Reuters

Top girls' schools have launched an initiative to highlight prominent women in history, science and culture by including more of their stories and achievements on the exam syllabus. If the campaign is successful, accomplished women such as artist Tracy Emin, two-time Nobel laureate Marie Curie and musician Fanny Mendelssohn could be added to the GCSE and A level curriculums.

The campaign began following a petition by Jesse McCabe, 17, who called for female composers to be added to the music syllabus after noticing that her Edexcel A level papers featured 63 men – and no women. As a result, girls' schools leaders have compiled a draft list of women they would like to see featured in future exams. Exam boards have agreed to consider making changes from 2016, when GCSE and A level exams are set to be updated.

Helen Fraser, chief executive of the Girls' Day School Trust, told the Sunday Times: "I don't believe that there are a group of men sitting in the exam boards saying, 'How can we exclude women?' But when you see that one exam board can come up with a list of 63 composers to study and all of them are men, you do have to wonder what is going on."

"If we do not give young women role models, present and historical, how are they going to aspire to make their mark on the world?" she added.

The OCR awarding body said musicians such as Nina Simone, Bille Holiday and Lady Gaga would be featured in the syllabus, telling the Sunday Times: "In the development of our new draft music syllabus, we have worked hard to create a diverse, inclusive and flexible repertoire."

Edexcel told the newspaper: "It's right to encourage study of the broadest range of composers and performers. We are going to consider how we can best showcase great male and female musicians through our revised A level, which will begin in autumn 2016."

AQA said: There are many opportunities for students to learn about women and their work in the subjects we offer qualifications in."