All Businesses should follow these Five Key Strategies to find and keep Women in STEM careers (and other sectors)

Written by Jennifer Kempson

In 2016, Forbes completed an extensive study into STEM based on LinkedIn profiles and how women in particular moved within job roles during their career paths.

According to LinkedIn data, Women only hold 23% of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) roles worldwide, with the proportion of females dropping as we move to look at management and then further C Level roles.

This leads us to wonder exactly why this is – why are fewer women reaching the top management and board level roles compared to their male counterparts. Having a smaller workforce isn’t the answer here as this is based on their career stopping point rather than percentage in the management role.

What is missing in order to keep women and encourage them to progress higher?

  • Preach Flexibility and drive it into company culture

    Companies don’t want to lose their top talent as they rise through the job progression, but how many of them realise if they positively encouraged flexible working conditions and schedules – that this could well be the answer to keep talent.

    Women often as they grow older will gain new responsibilities of a family life and work to balance.

    Flexible working conditions in place, such as working from home policies, compressed working hours, job sharing etc all mean that women can find their ideal balance in life.

    And what’s more – flexible working once approved and working for the individual actually leads to greater company loyalty and more productive workers.  They don’t want to risk losing their great working environment within the organisation, and less likely to leave for another company EVEN if they offer more pay!

  • Pay equally between the sexes

    The same old story told again but STEM roles are no different.  Women are usually paid between 20-35% lower wages compared to their male counterparts.  Simply solution here – if we want more women to fill all levels of roles in our organisations we need to pay everyone the same base line value.

    Obviously skill set and experience will allow for some notable differences, but base line should be the same.

    Some start up companies such as Buffer radicalized the way they think about wages to support lifestyle for their employees too leading to a loyal workforce.

    They actually offer a wage increase depending on your number of dependents, fully understanding that one wage supporting your life until the next pay rise is possible doesn’t allow for life events such as children to be support very easily.

    Loyalty to their company for it’s male and female employees seems like a done deal.

  • Pay fairly compared to other professions

    Did you know the word french word for engineer (Latin ingeniator[3]) is derived from the Latin words ingeniare (“to contrive, devise”) and ingenium (“cleverness”).

    However the English translation comes from the use meaning a engine operator.

    No wonder our young people growing up have no idea what an engineer does for a living or whether it is a career to be proud of?

    On average, an engineering graduate with a four year Bachelor degree earns around £18-22k compared with Finance and Dentistry counterparts earning upwards of £40k starting salary in most cases.

    If we don’t take the industries that bring innovation into our economy, and pay the employees who have the technical knowledge well, we will lose them easily to higher paying specialist fields such as Sales and Finance.

  • Build trust

    Pam Wadors (Chief Human Resources Officer and Senior Vice President of LinkedIn’s Global Talent Organization) preaches it brilliantly in her article :

    “Women don’t want more, we just want fair. Whether it’s fair pay, chance of promotion, maternity leave or access to strong mentors, most women want to know and feel like the company has our back”

    LinkedIn study revealed that women were likely to only be offered a 10% pay rise for a promotion, compared to male counterparts receiving up to 30% pay rises for the same role.

    And in most cases, mentors and role models were not offered to women other male colleagues who were encouraged quickly to seek such career learning advantages.

    Pam advised that we must develop a business culture of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to allow opportunities for women in particular to get together and network, to build relationships and see first hand how they can achieve the career path they want.

    Freely discussing issues faced for working mothers, working single parents, young Graduates starting out is just the starting point to a brighter generation of women who stick with STEM throughout their careers.

  • Teach young people the value of these careers from a young age

    Common Stereotypes exist in virtually all forms of profession, whether it is the image of the typical Nurse being a young female in a blue uniform or a Scientist being a middle aged man with glasses in a white lab coat.

    It is our job as a society to show the variety of workforce out there, especially STEM careers where children might not have come across someone they know to be a Geologist or Electronic Engineer.

    But what are some of the ways you can help encourage women and young girls into the professions?  

    Perhaps you can use the next Facebook post or Instagram photo to show what you do each day, and one of the exciting projects you are involved in using Science?

    Perhaps you can volunteer to be a STEM Ambassador and start going into local schools and clubs to take and teach about an aspect of STEM learning that they might never have been exposed to before?

    Think of ways you can give back, think of just how you found out about your profession and see if you can do something to make a difference even in a small way?

    Perhaps just as simply as inviting a local school in to your place of work for a morning to look around is enough to spark someone’s excitement as never before!

    Pat summerised her article on Forbes.com with this wonderful inspiring quote:

“Overall, as an industry, we have a responsibility to showcase that our women engineers, scientists and mathematicians matter.

That their work matters.

When we asked women in STEM what motivates them at work, they were less motivated by money or status than men were, and more focused on purpose.

Show women how their work fits into a greater purpose, encourage open communication and transparency and invite your STEM women to share their experiences with colleagues.

After all, your best advocates are your happy employees.”

Jennifer Kempson

Jennifer Kempson holds a Master of Engineering in Electronics & Electrical Engineering, a Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, a STEM Ambassador in the U.K. and has worked in Engineering and some of the world’s largest Technology companies for over 12 years.

When not raising her two young boys, she can be found developing her Social entrepreneurial company Stereotype Clothing (stereotypeclothing.co.uk) to raise STEM career profiles in the UK or creating her personal family lifestyle blog & vlog channels.

All language used in guest blogs is the author’s own. Interested in writing for the Equate blog? Find out more here