Chief Executive, WISE
Today, there are one million women working in STEM in the UK. WISE, the campaign for greater gender balance in science, technology and engineering (STEM), says there is still more to be done and is setting a target of 30% of women in STEM in the UK.
While one million women working in core STEM roles is a major milestone towards increased representation, the priority now is to close the gap in technology and digital roles that cut across every single sector.
Tech roles are growing faster than any other occupation group and employers are struggling to find talented people to fill them. There are an estimated 600,000 tech vacancies at any one time in the UK and yet women represent just 16% of the IT profession.
Approximately 600,000 tech vacancies in the UK
We know from our members that, when faced with skills shortages like this, employers need to do something different. Setting a target of having at least 30% of women in their organisations is one solution. After all, when the talent pool is already small, it simply does not make sense to reduce it further by cutting out 50% of the population.
There is very strong evidence that shows that, where diversity and inclusion are embedded in the workplace, businesses are more competitive, more productive, more profitable and more innovative.
We’ve established our industry-led ‘Ten Steps’ to help employers from all sectors achieve this, but it needs all of us to work together – men and women.
Don’t forget to demonstrate to the women who are already part of your team that you are committed to retaining and developing them; this is particularly important for women taking a career break.
Make leaders accountable for change
Our first recommendation is to treat diversity and inclusion like any other business transformational change project. There needs to be a named director on every company board to drive sustainable change for inclusivity and diversity. They must be supported by the full board of directors who must also take action to deliver this culture.
Earlier this year, some of the companies working with WISE reported linking diversity targets to bonuses.
You need to establish and understand your baseline position; an analysis of your gender pay gap data is a good place to start. Work with your teams to set realistic targets, timescales and tactics to drive progress.
Recruitment policies can help iron out exclusions
Review your recruitment policies. Are you restricting the applicant pool by requiring long periods of technical experience or qualifications? Could you offer training or returner programmes? Don’t forget to demonstrate to the women who are already part of your team that you are committed to retaining and developing them; this is particularly important for women taking a career break. Ensure that senior leaders sponsor women to the same extent they do men within the business seen as having high potential.
Finally, adopt a company-wide approach to flexible working. This will widen your talent pool by allowing people to balance their careers with other commitments such as caring responsibilities.
Gender balance is better for everyone; individuals, businesses and the economy.
Read our Ten Steps guidelines onThe WISE Ten Steps