Many industries have felt a significant impact on their processes and supply chains recently, however, the same cannot be said for jobs in the STEM industry (science, technology, engineering, and maths). SRG conducted their 2021 STEM Survey, which saw 2,400 respondents from Europe and North America, finding that job satisfaction was unaffected by events in the wider world. On top of that, UK respondents were reporting an average salary of £43,424, which was £4,000 more than the year prior.
Despite a salary increase for STEM, there’s still as high as a 37% gender pay gap across professions. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) in 2020 has found that across 83 countries, only 27% of the workforce is female.
With these significant gaps in pay and the prevalence of women in STEM, we ask what the future looks like for women in this area. In this article, we’ll look at what needs to change for women in STEM to be as valued as men are.
To go forward, you must first go back to the root of the issue, which begins with education. The Commission for Employment and Skills has stated that part of the reason that there are 43% of STEM vacancies is due to the lack of applicants with the appropriate skills that are gained through STEM subjects. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of female students taking a Design and Technology GCSE dropped to 28,763 from 29,741.
The perception of STEM subjects is still gendered towards males, and there needs to be more of a focus on encouraging girls to take up these subjects in school. This, in turn, will result in a future of educated and skilled individuals entering careers later down the line, as a long-term investment in the future of STEM begins in classrooms. Experts are predicting that there’ll be a deficit of 1.8 million engineers in the UK by 2025, making it even more crucial to start that investment as soon as possible.
For this to happen, greater attention must be paid to the materials and educators. Research from Microsoft found that 52% of women aged between 11 to 30 were interested in a career in STEM if they had a fictional or non-fictional female role model to look up to. Using learning materials that frame men and women equally and introducing them to females with expertise and role models in the industry could help encourage more girls to take the subjects.
Within each element of STEM, a wide range of careers can be taken on that are important to the progression of many fields. Technology, healthcare, and engineering are just a few examples of industries that benefit from candidates for the workforce being versed in STEM skills.
Whether it’s helping to design the next development in cybersecurity or becoming the lead in engineering and developing hydraulic rams, this is one way we help to build the future face of women in STEM. By highlighting how many potential careers are across many sectors, it could further encourage them to build a career they may have never considered or realised they had the skills for.
Employment also benefits hugely from closing the gender gaps in STEM. It’s predicted that if the gender gap were to be bridged, employment figures in Europe would increase from 850,000 to 1.2 million by 2050. This huge leap would help create new roles, accommodating the larger workforce, with the new jobs more likely to be high-value positions. As a result, the face of female workers in STEM could be adding to their knowledge of several sectors and jumping straight into positions with a lot of authority in the near future with the added benefit of higher wages.
Diversity is not just a buzzword to make businesses appear more in tune with societal wants, as it has been shown to improve productivity in the business world. This means that along with the improvements that diversifying STEM could have on the overall employment figures of a whole continent, it could simultaneously make the workforce more productive.