The number of young people, especially young women, studying subjects concerning STEM has steadily grown over the years. An ageing workforce means that many skilled and experienced engineers and technicians are retiring and leaving room for more talented individuals to succeed them. However, factors within the industry have contributed to a shortage of women. This derives from issues such as the low percentage of females taking up STEM related courses, in comparison to males. As a result of this, the government and employers are actively seeking ways to make the industry more appealing to women, implementing incentives such as equal pay.
How many women are currently in the UK’s STEM workforce?
STEM employment has risen by 6.3% since 2017 (source: STEM Women). More females are choosing to enter these career paths, and this has been amplified by notable women throughout history such as Marie Curie, Katherine Johnson and Rosalind Franklin. From 2015 to 2019, the number of women working in the industry increased from around 22,000 to over 24,000. As of 2019, there were 1 million women working in any one of the sectors relating to STEM (source: STEM Women).
Although females have come a long way, we have yet to go to fill the gaps in the industry. There are numerous factors that are affecting the lack of women, some of which include: lack of diversity, bias recruiting and high turnover.
According to UCAS, 35% of students studying degrees involved in either Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are women.
How is the government increasing the number of women following STEM related careers?
It is known that degrees specialising in STEM are some of the highest earning degrees for female graduates. The government, as well as employers, are seeking ways of attracting more women to study STEM courses at university. An example of this was the implementation of a £84 million programme in 2018. This funding was put towards supporting initiatives designed to improve the teaching of subjects, like computer science. The aim was to provide women with the necessary skills to allow them to succeed in particular subjects.
The government has also vowed to support women by providing funding for high quality apprenticeships. For example, in 2019 the government funded at least 500 Careers Leader training courses for women in schools and colleges.
The introduction of T-levels in September 2020 was also another measure. Serving as an alternative to A-levels, these qualifications focus on vocational skills and include subjects like Engineering and Manufacturing, Digital, Health and Science (source: GOV.UK). T-Levels will consist of two year courses that include industry placement for students, enabling them to gain valuable work experience.
The future for women in STEM
Although it is a male dominated industry, it is not uncommon to see successful women with STEM backgrounds.
There is currently high demand for advanced level STEM skills, particularly in the manufacturing and engineering, construction and technology sectors. This gap in the market is the perfect opportunity to drive more females into the industry. The opportunity of equality for women will create a more diverse and talented workforce. Equal opportunities will also see a decrease in the gender pay gap and prevent bias towards women. In addition to this, workplaces will focus on improving their job hiring, retention and inclusivity to appeal to more females.Back to insights