Getting girls into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is no longer an issue, the problem we are now facing is getting them to stay.
I recently attended the Women in Tech Conference and was astounded to hear that 70% of female STEM candidates leave the industry once they graduate.
A surge in the number of schools and organisations encouraging young women to take up STEM subjects in the past five years has clearly had a hugely positive effect but we have a greater problem facing the industry if almost two thirds are leaving post-graduation.
Scottish Power is one organisation trying to battle the problem with their Women Returner Programme in partnership with Equate Scotland. It offers STEM women who have taken a career break of two years, and who are looking to get back into the workplace, a structured and supportive programme to brush up their skills and rebuild confidence before returning to STEM employment on a more permanent basis. It is having an enormously positive impact on women and the STEM sector but they can’t solve the issue alone.
When discussing the lack of retention, it was suggested that there are not enough female representatives at Scottish universities to act as a point of contact for STEM women and female students can feel alienated or over-powered on a course which is often heavily male-dominated.
Outcomes suggested included female mentors at universities and in the workplace, course and industry language containing less masculine terminology and interestingly, companies should only be advertising essential criteria on job descriptions to encourage female applications. It was proposed that women will not apply to roles unless they meet 100% of the desired requirements on a job specification whereas male professionals will apply for a role, even with just 60% of the requirements being met.
As a recruitment partner I will now be ensuring I only advertise the essential criteria in a bid to attract more female STEM talent but I am keen to hear your thoughts on what more can be done to attract women.
Please get in touch and join the conversation – how do we keep women in STEM?