How can we improve gender diversity in STEM roles?
14th August 2020
There isn’t a single person in society who hasn’t been affected by the innovations of technology. The impact on our daily lives is monumental. For a long time, the people coming up with these innovations all looked and thought very much alike. However, the growing diversity within STEM roles means a whole new perspective on projects we wouldn’t have had before. But what does diversity in STEM roles even mean? And more importantly, how do we improve it?
What is diversity?
When we talk about diversity, it simply means ‘difference’. Diversity in people covers gender, age, race, sexuality, disability etc. Technology has historically been an industry dominated by a certain demographic (typically white males in their middle age). And while many brilliant things have come out of the industry because of these people, there are so many further opportunities for new discoveries when the playing field is opened up to a wider range of people. Lack of diversity represents a loss of talent. And why would anyone want to limit the possibilities?
Where are the women?
Every year, the UK recruits around 36,000 less STEM roles than it needs. Currently only about 25% of STEM roles are filled by women with engineering and ICT roles consistently being some of the weakest areas for women’s participation. Only around 8% of specific engineering roles are currently occupied by women. When it comes to women in minority groups, the number gets even smaller.
While this is an improvement, there’s still a long way to go to fully close the gap. The increase in numbers comes from an extremely low benchmark. In the UK, women are still vastly underrepresented in STEM roles compared to their counterparts throughout the rest of Europe.
How can we improve?
Despite a consistently higher number of girls choosing STEM subjects at A-level and out performing their male counterparts by nearly 25%, the subject least taken up is physics. This often prevents girls from accessing certain STEM qualifications in higher education, blocking their way to potential tech and engineering roles in the future.
It’s been clearly identified that something happens between the ages of 10-14 that puts girls off pursuing the STEM route in schools. It has been commented that an improved level of career guidance and information would help. But what really needs to change is the image of the industry as a whole which is still heavily dominated by men. 30% of girls surveyed in the Not For People Like Me research said they would be put off pursuing STEM because of fear of sexism in the workplace. 60% commented that they didn’t know of any female role models in a STEM position.
The need for diversity is paramount. At ixRM, we’re passionate about engaging women in STEM roles and seeing the benefits of a more diverse workforce. It’s clear that the image of STEM needs to be improved in order to make it more accessible to a wider audience, including those deciding their qualifications in schools. It’s clear we still have a long way to go before achieving true gender balance in the technology industry.