BLOG POST WRITTEN BY DIVERSITAS INSTITUTE
Today, 11th of February, we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science and I would like to take the opportunity to point out what are the challenges and opportunities that girls and women face in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics ) field.
Despite some improvements in recent decades, women and girls are still underrepresented in STEM. In order to analyse why is this still happening, it is necessary to look at some facts around the topic:
In terms of education, the last UNESCO report Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics shows some clues that provide useful information around the factors behind the lack of women and girls in these areas from an education perspective. These factors go from an individual level to a more broad and systemic societal level. Some of the causes depicted in this study are:
- “Girls appear to lose interest in STEM subjects with age. Gender stereotypes around the idea that STEM careers are male dominant can have a negatively effect in girl’s engagement”.
- “Lack of female role-models in education”.
- “Cultural and social norms influence girl’s perceptions. In countries with greater gender equality, girls tend to have more positive attitudes and confidence in subjects such as mathematics”.
- Only 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women. In particular, in Computer Sciences and Engineering, the percentage falls to 19%.
- Women make up 24% of the STEM workforce in the UK. According to the trends from the last decade, it is estimated that by 2030, they expect to reach over 29% of women in the sector.
Additionally, according to a recent report of the British Science Association, “the STEM workforce, when contrasted with the rest of the UK workforce, has a lower share of female workers (27% vs. 52%). In particular, the proportion of female ICT professionals has remained static at 16%”.
These facts and figures confirm that the sector is still facing a low proportion of women. Therefore, the question of why is it so crucial to attract more women to the STEM field requires our attention.
STEM is a vital and critical economic sector that represents 18% of the UK’s total workforce, a percentage that in the near future is going to grow even more. Meeting the increasing need of talent with more women moving towards STEM careers becomes absolutely essential.
At this point, from the workplace point of view, what can companies do to help reversing this trend?
- Diversify recruitment strategies, looking for a wider range of candidates in different talent pools; actively seeking female talent through different channels or having a more diverse recruiting board incorporating the gender perspective in the recruitment process involving women in the decision-making.
- Retain female talent, creating an inclusive workplace culture; supporting returners; introducing mentoring and reverse mentoring programmes or adopting policies and internal programmes to better reconcile the work-life offering them to both men and women.
- Attract future talent collaborating with schools and universities through, for example, STEM careers events; organising open days at the company; hearing inspiring talks from potential employers making visible women of the organisation as an inspiring role model or creating networks that can reach to girls who are thinking of choosing a career in STEM. In that sense, according to the Institute of Student Employers in a survey that was conducted, “the majority (95%) of respondents said they were more likely to apply to a company they had spoken to at a careers event and 58% said that STEM Women events had changed their minds about potential career paths”.