19 February, 2020

Removing the barriers

04 December, 2018

One realm of professional endeavour that could still do with a bit of a nudge in the direction of greater gender parity is that of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. However, perusing the findings of new research by WISE, the campaign for gender balance in STEM subjects, it would appear, encouragingly, that things are moving in the right direction, with the UK set to have 1 million women active in core STEM jobs by 2020. Over 900,000 women are currently working in STEM, according to the research, and an estimated 200,000 women with STEM qualifications will reach working age within the next 2 years. The news was announced at the recent WISE 2018 Awards presented by the Patron of WISE, HRH The Princess Royal.

At the event, HRH The Princess Royal said the WISE goal of reaching 1 million women in STEM was within reach if employers could recruit just half of the 200,000 thousand girls estimated to be studying STEM subjects. She also said it was very important to continue to encourage girls to be curious and explore the opportunities opened by science, technology and engineering.

WISE’s annual Awards recognise inspiring individuals and organisations who are actively working to promote STEM to girls and women and drive change. Costain, Network Rail, EDF Energy, and BAM Nuttall were among some of the companies who collected Awards.

Helen Wollaston, chief executive officer for WISE, said that we need UK employers to do more and follow the great example of the Award winners who are leading the way. “They have managed to get more women into engineering and technology, removed barriers preventing women moving up through the ranks and seen the benefits of doing so in terms of improved business performance,” she said, adding that there are more women than ever before coming onto the labour market with engineering and technology qualifications. “If employers manage to recruit just half of these women, the UK will have achieved a major milestone,” she remarked.

WISE also wants to see an increase in the proportion of girls choosing maths, physics, computer science and engineering, as well as making it easier for women who did not study these subjects at school, college or university, to obtain the relevant qualifications later in life. Wollaston believes there is a major opportunity for companies in the UK to step up their efforts to ensure they retain the women they already have in STEM roles, as well as opening doors for those who may want to retrain from other roles or return after career breaks.

“Employers can benefit from re-training women who already work for them, many of whom would jump at the opportunity to learn new skills and have a more interesting role with better pay and prospects,” she said. “This will also help with the gender pay gap. Network Rail who won our Career Award is a great example of how companies can make a real difference.”

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