In 2019, for the first time ever, over one million women were recorded by the UK Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey as working in core STEM occupations. That’s an increase of 216,552 women entering STEM roles in just three years (from 802,848 in 2016).
Drill down to purely engineering roles and, in the same timeframe, the number of women working in these jobs has doubled from 25,000 to just over 50,000.
There is no doubt that the trend is a positive one for inclusivity in what has been a traditionally male-dominated sector and shows that these sectors that pioneer change in so many technological ways may finally be addressing the ways they fall behind on a societal equality level.
And yet the larger picture still shows that women have a long way to go for true equality in this area. That “one million women” milestone I just referenced? That represents just 24% of the UK’s STEM workforce. Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) estimate that if that remarkable growth rate were to continue (which is not necessarily a given, based on the disruption to the entire workforce of the last two years, not covered by this data), then by the start of the next decade women would still only account for 29% of the STEM workforce.
It’s important for us to constantly be aware of both sides of this at Amoria Bond, and particularly in my role as CEO, so that we can both acknowledge the progress that is being made across the sectors we deliver recruitment services to and recognise the work that still needs to be done. Because our important role in all this means that we’re the ones responsible for finding the right people to work with our clients. We’re passing those opportunities on so we have to ensure that we’re doing what we can to remove any barriers and encourage people of all genders to apply.
We work in the pioneering sectors of Advanced Engineering, Technology and Energy because we believe that supporting the businesses and projects that grow in these industries will change the world for the better. These are the industries that will deliver clean energy solutions, create new medical breakthroughs and develop smart tech that can be used for enhanced safety, security and accessibility. We also believe in the importance of diversity and inclusion across all industries - and that we must lead by example in delivering sustainable, meaningful, action-led change.
How to inspire more women to STEM roles
Last year we welcomed Jo Wimble-Groves - a STEM ambassador, tech entrepreneur, business owner and author of “Rise of the Girl: 7 empowering conversations to have with your daughter” - onto the Progressing Lives Everywhere Podcast. As someone who started her own tech company at the age of 16, she has more insight than most people into what it takes to succeed within this industry and the challenges that women face that can too often make them turn away from STEM jobs entirely.
I highly recommend listening to the full podcast episode as Jo delivers a truly fascinating story of her own experiences in becoming a technology leader as well as discussing why it’s so important to find ways to inspire young girls to consider a career in technology, engineering and science. She talks about how she’s been going into schools for over a decade as a STEM ambassador just to talk to young people about who she is and what she does - showing them that you don’t have to be an Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos type to succeed in this world. There are role models available who are far more relatable.
But one point in particular that she made really stood out to me. She said:
“As women, we’ve come a long way in the last 100 years, but we know there’s a lot of work still to be done, and I kept reading in the news about girls performing on par with boys or outperforming boys, but still not putting their hand up to take an opportunity, still not putting their hand up to try something new or sometimes just having that fear of failure, working towards perfection all the time.
“Perhaps it’s just that young girls think they’re not performing as well as boys - they think that they need to be good at all the subjects, science and maths and all the rest. But they don’t.
“There’s just so much diversity in STEM careers. Whether they could be working in digital, working at a company like apple, working somewhere where they can be using their creative skills. You don’t have to be a mathemetician in order to work in STEM. I’m not, but I do love working in tech, and I love seeing technology change.”
What I think is really interesting about that is that even though she’s focusing on the next generation, those girls who are still in school who have the opportunities to study these topics that can lead them to great careers in these fields, many of the things she’s talking about can still apply to those who are in what you could call the “current generation” of STEM workers. Whether that’s young women just starting out their career or those who have maybe been dissuaded from STEM industries in the past but could still have the capabilities, ambitions and creativity to reconsider some of the jobs that are out there.
Many of them can still face the same dissuasion that Jo was talking about - not thinking they have the right qualifications or knowledge. Thinking you need to be a maths whizz or a science genius to work in these areas.
How can we make a difference?
As a recruitment company, it’s our responsibility to make sure that we can recognise the attributes that will really make someone right for the roles we’re filling. Of course, there are technical requirements we have to take into consideration, but it’s also important for us to look beyond things like grades or backgrounds and answer different questions.
Who will really make a difference? Who has the ability to find a new solution? Who has the creativity to see the bigger picture? Who has the dedication to overcome the biggest challenges?
I encourage my employees to “lead with positivity”. Show that there are more opportunities out there than some people might think. Highlight the best qualities of our candidates and encourage them to bring those out. Only by leading with positivity can we change the perceptions of the type of person who should be working in an engineering role.
Jo’s work as a role model is a really inspiring way of leading with positivity. She doesn’t hide who she is, she demonstrates why you don’t need to be a graduate or A-grade student to succeed in STEM. She gives people someone just like them who they can look up to.
As she says:
“Working in a STEM environment is really exciting; it’s an exciting time, and I love seeing girls doing engineering, and I love seeing girls talking about it. But we’ve got to give them the role models that are doing it. They’ve got to see people that are in that industry.”
That’s what will make the biggest difference. Recognising milestones like 1 million women working in the UK's STEM industry means we are showing both the current and next generation that there are more people like them. The more we do it, the more we talk about it and the more we show it, the faster we will see the rate of women joining these sectors rise.
What does Amoria Bond do to progress women?
Gender diversity is just one of the key equality measures we try to uphold within Amoria Bond, through making sustainable, meaningful, action-led changes internally. Learn more about how we practice what we preach, and the steps that we're continuing to make to try to encourage, promote and progress more women in our own industry and the pioneering sectors we recruit for: https://www.amoriabond.com/en/diversity-inclusion/.