Plugging the gender gap in STEM

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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. 

Lookers

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.

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