Despite the ever-growing number of initiatives to support women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), the gender gap in the sector remains a serious issue. Why are women so underrepresented in STEM – and how can employers tackle the problem?
This blog offers tips both for business leaders looking to redress the gender balance and for women looking to get into STEM.
Studies show that increasing the number of women in STEM will increase the UK’s labour value by at least £2bn. Yet girls and young women are still discouraged from studying STEM subjects. Organisations need to focus on the young generation while they are still at school in order to remedy the gender gap in the future.
Just 35% of girls (versus 80% of boys) study STEM subjects beyond GCSE, and only 25% of STEM graduates are women. This is essentially a pipeline issue: the male-dominated image of STEM subjects is putting off the next generation of girls.
Providing more visible female role models is therefore a vital next step. Some top IT and consultancy firms like Accenture, PWC, and KPMG are trying to attract women by offering more flexibility, including part-time and job-sharing opportunities, in order to create more female leaders who can act as role models at the most senior levels.
However, many women may not stay in the sector long enough to reach leadership level, as harassment and discrimination are rife, with over half of women in STEM saying they’ve experienced discrimination, and one in five saying their gender has been an obstacle to success and promotion.
What can businesses do?
● Educate staff about stereotype threat
● Join Women in Tech social media groups
● Promote more women
● Offer more flexibility to support women with care responsibilities
● Pay men and women equally
How can women get into STEM?
● Research the different STEM career paths and get clear on what appeals to you most.
● Consider the values and culture you want from an employer.
● Develop your confidence. Studies show men tend to be more confident in their careers, so you’ll need to be more outspoken to hold your own in a male-dominated workplace.
● Gain work experience in your chosen field. Look for company events focused on bringing women into technology.
● If you’re still at university, look into graduate schemes. Most larger tech companies offer them.
● Work with a recruiter who can present you to employers in the best light and ensure you get a fair shot at the job.