It is clear to see that women are underrepresented in STEM roles. Only 14% of the people working in STEM in the UK are female. Even though the tech industry is becoming more diverse and companies are creating resource groups to help them grow their diverse team, the gender gap is still an issue which needs tackling. Increasing women in STEM has many benefits, one of them being that it will increase the UKs labour value by at least £2bn.
The lack of women in STEM comes from the lack of awareness shown to girls in school and the encouragement to study STEM further at university. There a few stereotypes that can discourage girls from taking STEM subjects at school; the stereotype about people who work in STEM are nerdy or socially awkward and the negative stereotype about their intellectual abilities. In order to start closing the gender gap in STEM careers, organisations need to focus on girls in STEM as they are the next generation who can start to make a difference.
Lack of girls in stem?
There is a noticeable gap between girls and boys that study STEM subjects beyond GCSE (35% of girls and 80% of boys). At university, there are only 25% of graduates in STEM subjects who are women and 52% are males. The main reason as to why there is such a gap between the two is down to a pipeline issue. Fewer girls are picking STEM subjects at school due to it being seen as a male dominated subject. Knowing that your class is going to be full of boys can be off putting for girls, especially at a secondary school age. It has been shown that more boys are attracted to a STEM career compared to girls who are more attracted to HEED subjects to pursue a career in health, primary education and domestic as the majority of girls get job satisfaction out of helping people.
What can be done about it?
It is important for girls and young women to have a job that directly helps the world or other people and almost all of them describe themselves as creative. If they were told about how STEM subjects can give them an opportunity which is still within their interest, then this could help close the gender gap. Most girls aren’t told how studying a STEM related subject can help them in a career which gives them the job satisfaction they are looking for.
More role models in STEM
Having more female role models for girls in STEM would help to close the gender gap. If girls in high school were to see more females succeeding in STEM careers, then it would empower them to take STEM subjects and potentially pursue a career in the related fields. Giving girls real life examples of women in STEM would help them to model themselves after those successful women. There is a platform that connects academic with non-academic audiences called Speakezee. They have partnered up with the girl’s school association to send female STEM graduates to schools to talk to and inspire girls to study a STEM subject and consider perusing a career. Young girls need role models that they can relate to, inspire them and not to abandon their STEM potential.
Lack of women in stem roles
The lack of women in STEM roles is a result from the lack of girls studying STEM related subjects and wanting to pursue a career in the field. However, the women who are in a STEM related career are likely to experience sexual harassment at work. 78% of women in STEM who work in a mostly male dominated workplace felt this discrimination. Before the national conversation of Me Too, one in five women in STEM have also stated that their gender makes it hard for them to succeed at work and receive promotions.
What can be done about it?
Women in STEM who are in their mid-careers are facing several challenges and priorities. If organisations want to recruit and retain more women in STEM careers, they should consider the following:
40% of women have stated that they have been passed over when promotions have been offered to someone less qualified than them of the opposite sex. They also feel they haven’t been given any opportunity to step up from the position they are currently in and wonder if they have to leave their employer to be promoted.
Women understand that there isn’t necessarily an easy to maintain a work life balance, however they do want more flexibility to manage a work life dynamic. Women are still dedicated to their jobs but want to spend more time with their family, friends and personal interests.
25% of women claim they want to negotiate for a higher salary, as they are stereotyped as willing to settle for a lower salary. Even though 50% of women have stated they would accept a lower salary, so they could spend more time with their family, they all wanted to earn a higher salary.