career guidance

Plugging the gender gap in STEM

Assessing the skills shortage in STEM

In recent years, the UK has hit the lowest percentage of female engineer professionals in Europe, with countries such as Cyprus having nearly three times as many women in similar roles. Throughout this article, we will focus on women’s relationship with STEM and manufacturing industries.

Such a stereotype has existed around STEM industries – which consists of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, for decades. This highlights that regardless of how much time has passed, perhaps the stereotype still lingers with their being such a low amount of women being involved with such industries.

Such a shortage has led to investigation to see what may push women to work in STEM industries. It is a very daunting process for a woman to join a very male dominated industry. Therefore, to encourage more women, companies need to have more women — starting at the top. The likes of British Gas and Lookers have already began to put this into place by offering a variety of apprenticeship programmes.

Untapped talent and The Shine Theory

Previous records have shown that unfortunately, 51 per cent of women who are employed within STEM specific industries have commented on how they have been treated worse, simply due to their gender. This moves away from stereotypes however and into a dangerous position of discrimination.

Women being in such roles has proved to be beneficial not only in plugging the gender gap, but also for the company’s profitability themselves. Research suggests that every 10 per cent increase in gender diversity relates to a 3.5 percent increase in gross profit. Marci Bonham, managing director of Hilti, proposes, ‘that supporting women as they take their first management steps within the industry will have a positive impact overall.’ 

In fact, a survey found how manufacturing had the largest pool of untapped talent, simply because there were very few women in the roles previously. Not only is there an abundance of female staff available, they are also highly qualified, most possessing not only a bachelor’s but a supplementary master’s degree.

Due to this, the Shine Theory was put into place. The shine theory focuses on how much women can succeed if they were to befriend other females in the workplace, as opposed to battling against them. Effectively, this American concept emphasises how surrounding yourself with positive and successful women will create a positive atmosphere within.

What routes are there to take?

With such a shortage of women in STEM industries, we’ve taken a look at the different routes to take to try and draw more women into this area. In fact, only 14.4% of women constitute to those working in STEM in the UK.

The best way of encouraging this, is to establish more prominent idol like figures within these subject areas. Take for example Brian Cox, it is easier for young boys interested in getting into physics to relate to him. Alternatively, Donna Strickland as physicist from Canada, became only the third woman ever to win the Nobel Prize award for her science. Her name, along with others who achieved spectacular heights needs to be promoted throughout kids of a young age.

In 1918 women over earned the right to vote, while women being accredited for such contributions to science as Donna Strickland, is certainly a recent development.

Apprenticeships are a very popular route to take nowadays, with the traditional degree route not being for everyone. Subject areas including learning support, travel services, and beauty therapy, all had 80% or more female applicants. On the other hand, vehicle maintenance and repair, gas industry, and construction skills all had below 10%.

British Gas

The energy provider has placed emphasis on getting women to apply for their apprenticeship scheme by offering examples of applicants with examples of some of their highest achieving female members of staff. They similarly draw upon the fact, that by putting more women into male dominated apprenticeships, the gender pay gap is likely to be bridged. 


One of Centrica’s Top 100 employers, the national motor retailer, who provide the new Ford Transit, launched its female apprentice network last year. The scheme is based around setting up regular meetings between female apprentices, providing them with the opportunity to share their new-found knowledge and experiences.

Job Shadow Quick Start Guide

What is a job shadow?
As we covered in our Employer’s Guide to Job Shadowing last month, “A job shadow program is a program within any company or organization that lets students shadow workers for a few hours. Unlike internships, which usually last months or a year, job shadow programs are typically less than one day. Students are compensated with school credit and the ability to meet professionals – no money exchanges hands on either side. Also unlike an internship, a job shadow is strictly educational in nature; they often only observe but can do hands-on tasks if you are open to that.”

Benefits of job shadowing
Job shadowing benefits everyone. Students are introduced to the workforce in a friendly, controlled environment, and are able to acquaint themselves with the higher-ups. This allows them to potentially get a foot in with a company that may hire them after they graduate. The experience is also valuable, and they can likely use this experience as college/high school credit.

Employers will meet a few new fresh faces and some potential new employees, which not only will help hiring managers look for new talent, but also establish the company as a student-friendly workplace that gives back to the community.

What companies offer job shadowing?
Companies across all sectors offer job shadow programs! Although you’ll more likely see job shadowing in office settings, retail stores and local businesses of all kinds (ranging from massage therapy to local boutiques) also offer programs. You can ask around at local businesses or see if your school has any info, but the easiest way to find out what companies near you offer job shadowing is to use our Job Shadow Finder. The Finder is a collection of companies that offer job shadowing and internships at their office(s), and is perfect for students who need job experience or need to complete an internship/job shadow before graduation.

I’m part of a company; how do I make my company’s internship/job shadow program known?
A topic we also covered in our previous job shadow post, a great way to get started is to put a listing for the program in our Job Shadow Finder. You can also buy a promoted blog post with us, and we’ll write a customized blog post focusing entirely on your program. It’s a great way to reach out 9,000+ daily visitors to our site!

I’m a student who needs to complete a job shadow/internship to graduate, but I can’t find any programs in my area!
Interning and job shadowing are slowly becoming a requirement for high schoolers and college students to complete before graduation. While it might be fairly easy for college students to find an internship, job shadows are harder to find, and it’s all the more harder for high school students.

Besides making use of our Job Shadow Finder, a great way to find programs in your area is to speak either with your school’s main office (if you’re in high school) or career center (if you’re in college). These offices are bound to have plenty of useful information, or at the very least some people or businesses you can contact for further info.

Are there any existing job shadow databases?
Despite there being a plethora of job- and internship-hunting websites, no resources exist to help students find job shadow opportunities. Career In STEM’s Job Shadow Finder is the first of its kind, and seeks to help students who would otherwise struggle to find the opportunities they need to graduate.

If You Love Working with Your Hands, These 5 STEM Jobs are for You!

Wildlife Conservationist

What they do
Wildlife Conservationists preserve, protect and maintain plant and animal habitats. They work at places such as national forests, and work to keep the land free of poachers, arrest those breaking any game laws, ensure that people are abiding by game rules, test game kills for disease and prevent any kind of wildlife crime.

How they use their hands
Conservationists not only handle game kills to collect samples to be tested for disease, but regularly scope the area they’re required to watch over. They’re work is almost entirely outside, and play an essential role in many government and research institutions.

2. MRI Technician

What they do
MRI Technicians use MRI machines to test people and check them for various diseases, tumors and abnormal activity within their bodies. Their machines use magnetic resonance imaging (that’s where the MRI comes from) to make high-def 3D images of the tissue and organs of the human body.

How they use their hands

MRI Technicians manually operate MRI machines to scan people and carry out important tests. Doctors use the results of these MRI scans to diagnose illnesses and disorders such as cysts, bone deformities and cancer.

3. Obstetrician

What they do
Obstetricians provide pregnant women with prenatal care and assist in childbirth and even after childbirth. Some of their responsibilities consist of ordering tests such as ultrasounds, examining patients, and ordering medications and treatments.

How they use their hands
Because obs often help with childbirth, they’re using their hands to deliver the baby and care for it after it’s been born. They also carry out tests and examinations, and help women with any concerns they may have about their pregnancy.

Obstetricians provide pregnant women with prenatal care

4. Construction Managers

What they do
Construction Managers handle the moving pieces of a construction job. This means they take care of the budget, supervising subordinates and the overall planning of the project. They have to communicate regularly with their team and ensure that the job is taking place

How they use their hands
Construction Managers have to visit the sites that they’re overseeing the construction of. In addition, they must look over schematics of a project and utilize their team’s skills to get the project done on time. Though they may not take part in the construction of a building, these managers certainly must have a strong presence in a construction zone.

5. Exercise Physiologist

What they do
Exercise Physiologists help people achieve a higher level of health by conducting tests, evaluating their patients and giving them individualized diet and exercise plans. These physiologists may work with athletes, patients with diseases that must be closely monitored (such as diabetes) and those who simply want to get healthier.

How they use their hands
Exercise Physiologists provide a range of services for their clients, such as conducting stress tests, training them with exercise equipment, and using other specialized machines to identify a patient’s specific needs.

Didn’t find a career that piqued your interests? Check out our full list of STEM careers here!

The Employer’s Guide to Job Shadowing

Across the nation, schools and companies are realizing that more collaboration is needed. For the first time in US history there are more available jobs than available workers. Thus, there is a pressing need for companies to build their talent pipelines, especially in critical science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

One way to connect teenage students with local employers is through job shadows. Whether you have never heard of job shadowing, or are looking to get a job shadow program started in your district, here are some of the most common questions and answers we get about the process:

Employer’s Quick & Easy Guide to Job Shadowing:

Q. What is a job shadow program?
A. A job shadow program is a program within any company or organization that lets students shadow workers for a few hours. Unlike internships, which usually last months or a year, job shadow programs are typically less than one day. Students are compensated with school credit and the ability to meet professionals – no money exchanges hands on either side. Also unlike an internship, a job shadow is strictly educational in nature; they often only observe but can do hands-on tasks if you are open to that.

Q. What does a job shadow program entail?
A. A job shadow program usually consists of having a teenage student observing an employee while they work. The employee can explain each task to the student, and maybe have her/him try for themselves. The overarching purpose of a job shadow is to give students a sense of what a career is really like. A test drive so to speak!

Q. Why should my company offer job shadowing?
A. A company has lots of reasons to offer job shadowing! Not only are you helping introduce today’s youth to the workforce, you might also find one or two standout students to keep in touch with, mentor, and perhaps even hire when they graduate. Job shadowing is also a necessary part of completing high school, so you’ll be helping local students complete a very important requirement!

Q. Will having a job shadow program disrupt the workday?
A. Not at all! Your workers should be alerted that a student will be at your company for the day, and a handful of friendly employees should be chosen to be shadowed by the student. The flow of the workday shouldn’t change too much. Again, the whole point is for a student to experience a real ‘day in the life’. Even employees who aren’t tasked with being shadowed shouldn’t be afraid to jump in and offer a few nuggets of wisdom and info!

Q. Should I provide the student with any resources?
A. While it isn’t necessary to give the student any resources (they should show up with their own notebook, pencil and lunch), it isn’t a bad idea to have a simple agreement in place. While not necessary, an agreement form can be completed by both the company representative, student, and supervising educator/guidance counselor prior to a job shadow visit to keep everyone on the same page.

Q. Are there any legalities to job shadowing I should know about?
A. Part of this depends on the field that you work in. Manual labor jobs (i.e. construction, landscaping, factory work, etc.) usually require a release of liability form, while office settings typically don’t require such measures. For the most part job shadows are treated as ‘field experiences’ – like a field trip – and students are typically covered by school insurance. In some sensitive fields such as healthcare or national defense, job shadows may not be physically possible, or they may be limited to certain days or areas.

Q. How do I start a job shadow program in my organization?
A. Clearly explain the benefits to your supervisor if needed (educating youths, improves company brand, makes it easier to find new employees), how easy they are to carry out (legal paperwork optional in most cases), and how short they last (typically a single day). Once your company is on board, the next step is to reach out to the local school district. High School Guidance Department Directors are typically the best place to start. Their information can usually be found on the school’s staff page. You can also create a free listing in our Directory to share your job shadow opportunity!

Q. Are there any job shadow programs out there?
A. At the moment, no widely-used or government-sponsored job shadow placement program exists just yet. Most schools go it on their own; local school districts might have a program in place for its students, but just for that district.

Q. How will students know that my company is interested in hosting job shadows? A. Career In STEM has developed the STEM Job Shadow Finder – the only online tool currently on the market to help students find and connect with local STEM companies. The Job Shadow Finder is an interactive, searchable database custom created for school districts by Career In STEM. We do all the hard work of reaching out to companies and curating responses to provide all the information an interested student (or their parent/educator) will need to find and complete a job shadow experience. The Job Shadow Finder also allows students and educators to list job shadow locations and post ‘inside views’ through interactive community groups, enabling students across the nation to share and learn from the job shadow experiences of their peers. >>Create a free company profile today!

ATTENTION TEACHERS! Get this FAQ as an infographic, plus helpful email and letter templates. >>CLICK HERE!

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