The ongoing matter of gender imbalance in STEM industriesby Natasha Christou Digital Marketing Consultant
Stereotypes are intrinsically damaging within workforces. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the STEM sector. The Guardian reported in 2018 that despite the UK workforce being nearly 50 per cent female, only 14.4 per cent of people working in the STEM industry were women. The industry is carrying a centuries-old image of being a male-orientated environment, and it’s damaging its workforce, its diversity, and its overall profits.
The issues come from both male and female origins though — where men have been blamed for perpetrating discrimination via treating female co-workers differently, women have turned away from the idea of manual labour (long working hours on an assembly line, for instance) due to its lack of appeal. In fact, one study by Women in Manufacturing showed that nearly three quarters od women did not want to consider manufacturing as a possible career route.
In order to keep up and retain a solid talent pool, STEM industries such as construction and manufacturing need to work to change their image, in order to become more appealing to female workers. It also needs to promote an environment in which its female workers can excel and have the same opportunities afforded to them as their male counterparts.
Having female leaders in the industry is a beneficial first step towards tackling gender imbalance issues, and we are seeing this more and more in recent times. The FTSE 100 companies were, for example, able to increase the number of women in senior-positions in their workplaces in 2018. In fact, directorships rose by 1.3 per cent between 2017 and 2018. However, of those companies than managed this, only two represented construction and building.
It is definitely important to look at the talent pool already within a firm in order to scope for potential promotion. But women are frequently overlooked in favour of male colleagues, even if they themselves have a bachelor’s or master’s degree relevant to the role. One study in 2016 found that the manufacturing sector had a particular problem with untapped talent in this way.
The sector also has a problem of behaviour towards its female workers. 51 per cent of women reported that they had experienced discrimination based on their gender while at work. This turns stereotyping into something much worse, and a lot more damaging as a whole. Consider this — companies that increased their gender diversity by 10 per cent saw an increase in gross profits. By failing to address the gender gap issue, companies are not only failing their employees, but their own profits.
Marci Bonham, Hilti Managing Director, noted ‘that supporting women as they take their first management steps within the industry will have a positive impact overall.’
But the behaviour and treatment issue towards women in the workplace isn’t exclusively caused by men. Women are often highly critical of one another, viewing each other as competition rather than supporting one another. The Shine Theory suggests that if women were to approach their work with a more empowering attitude to each other, both women would progress further than on their own.
Of course, employers must also provide a support network to encourage steps towards ending the male-dominated nature of STEM sectors. One example of how to do this came last year with Ford Transit Connect retailer, Looker’s and their launch of a female apprentice network, helping to encourage women to choose STEM as a potential career path.
Another potential method to addressing the gender gap would be to highlight notable figures within the sector. This worked well with Brian Cox, who lead a drive to bring more attention to physics as a career industry.
By celebrating iconic women in the STEM sector, a similar result could be achieved. Employers in these industries certainly need to adapt their approaches to recruitment.
Created on Jul 10th 2019 12:33. Viewed 104 times.