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Diversity STEMs from equal opportunities

This year has largely been touted as the year of the women. The gender pay gap, the #MeToo movement and 100th anniversary of the suffragettes winning the right (for some women) to vote have all dominated the headlines.

With so much attention on diversity, why is it that certain industries are still struggling to recruit women despite a dedicated focus on gender equality?

A technical shortfall in women

STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) industries are a prime example of employment sectors which have been typically considered to be male dominated. And the statistics support that; according to Women in Tech, only 17 percent of the UK’s technology workers are women whilst WISE reports that women made up just 24 percent of the workforce working in core STEM industries in 2017.

Clearview Intelligence is an example of a STEM-based SME with employment figures illustrative of the UK average and national trends. Of its 52 employees, 13 are women, representing 24 percent of the total workforce. Yet not one of these women is employed in an engineering capacity.

The problem stems from education

The lack of diversity in the company’s scientific posts is not deliberate; it is reflective of the candidates who come forward for interview.

A report published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies this month showed that attainment in STEM subjects at GCSE remains similar between boys and girls. Yet due to factors including a lack of confidence, many girls fail to continue these subjects for their A-Levels. This broadens the gender gap at degree level, giving boys a better opportunity to flourish in STEM careers than their female counterparts.

Whilst Clearview Intelligence is not responsible for the shortage of females pursuing roles in STEM industries, it does suffer the consequences of this imbalance. As such, the company is working to actively shed the perception that ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) is a male-dominated environment by encouraging women to develop in other areas of the business.

Managing the issue

Although none of the 13 women hold technology posts, five of them do occupy manager roles, which means they have the power to provide influence within the company. Despite 80 percent of financial graduates being men, Clearview’s Director of Finance is Claire MacDonagh, who was internally promoted in 2017.

The largest team within the firm—comprising the field service engineers—is managed by Tessa Mills in the role of Operational Contacts Manager. And following an internal promotion, the company’s Strategic Relationship Manager post is held by Shona Wooding.

Claire Shona And Tessa

The appointment of women into key roles reflects Clearview’s commitment to breaking down the gender stereotypes to raise the industry profile amongst women and encourage more applications going forward. The company’s senior management team has pledged to invest in staff development so that more employees can progress and earn internal promotions.

Breakdowns needed on the road to equality

Although boys continue to dominate STEM subjects at A-Level, this year did see an increase of 5,000 more girls opting to sit exams in these subjects which is encouraging. If this pattern continues, going forward more women will hopefully receive the qualifications needed for roles such as engineering that Clearview is currently underrepresented in.

This will take time. In the interim Clearview is exploring opportunities to proactively support young women who are pursuing a career in STEM industries and encourage them to succeed. A combination of work experience, engagement with educational establishments and the possible introduction of a new apprentice scheme in 2019 are all under discussion.

With such an international focus and drive for gender equality, it is not enough for organisations to rest on their laurels and watch the changes take place around them. The perception of subjects or industries being gender specific needs to be broken down; only then can they be rebuilt to create a more inclusive environment that offers opportunities for everyone.

Author: Jemma C |Date Published: August 2018

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