Prospects supports women in STEM campaign

June, 2017

Charlie Ball, head of Higher Education Intelligence at Prospects comments on the career opportunities for women with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees especially in the many shortage subjects

We've partnered with WISE on the 2017 Women in STEM campaign, the mission is simple: We support gender parity in science, technology engineering and maths - from classroom to boardroom.

How many female graduates enter STEM careers?

It's quite difficult to define what STEM is. Is an environmental job STEM? Are media back-room roles in sound and lighting STEM? Of last year's graduates who went into engineering jobs, 13.5% were women. In IT, it was 19.1%. In conservation and environmental roles it was 53.7%. The proportion of women going into natural and social science roles - which covers biology, pharmacy, pharmacology, chemistry, etc - was 54.9%.

What is the biggest challenge for women in STEM roles?

It's a male-dominated sector and some women entering STEM careers will encounter attitudes that will make them feel uncomfortable. But, actually, most companies know they have to be inclusive or they won't get the workforce they need; and, in the vast number of cases, male colleagues are very supportive.

Where are the biggest opportunities for female STEM graduates?

The biggest areas - for all graduates, male and female - include surveying, which has a very serious skills shortage at the moment. Other areas of the construction industry with the same problems are town planning, project management and environmental health. These need a mix of good analytical and communication skills.

What can women graduates do to make themselves more employable?

Women with STEM degrees are already very employable; but work experience obviously helps. We also need more women recruiters who understand and can articulate the challenges of women entering industries that have traditionally been male-dominated. There's also a confidence gap, so women in STEM have to better express their own skills and abilities.

How can we inspire more women graduates to go into STEM roles?

High profile, inspiring role models help, because they prove that women can thrive in these industries and compete on equal terms. We also need to mention the pay, which can be very good. And because these are fast-moving sectors there are lots of opportunities which will be crucial to the future of the UK economy and the improvement of British society. It'll be exciting and rewarding.

What advice would you give to women considering STEM careers?

Be adaptable. Be open-minded about where you work and go where the opportunities are. In STEM, many jobs aren't in the big cities, which might mean setting up in locations that you're unfamiliar with or that take you away from friends and family. Be willing to learn new skills, change your role and take on new challenges.

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