Almost half (49%) of UK women wish they had pursued a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), according to a poll by The Open University (OU).

Furthermore, 56% of the women questioned admitted that they were not made aware of the value of STEM related subjects, growing up, and therefore did not know enough about the career opportunities available.UK women

The survey also found that the phrase ‘male-dominated’ was frequently used when respondents were asked to describe STEM industries.

Dr Clem Herman, Senior Lecturer at the OU in the Department of Computing and Communications said: “Analyses of the pay gap indicate that it is mainly caused by structural issues, in particular where and how men and women work. Key contributors to this pay gap include occupational segregation where women and men tend to work in different occupations and sectors, and the jobs in which men work tend to have higher wages with STEM being one of these sectors. The other is different working patterns.

This is where women are more likely to work part time and the hourly rate for part time jobs is usually lower regardless of the sector. Periods of working part time can be interpreted as not being serious about career and women often get passed over for promotion or for career developing opportunities.

60% of millennials questioned said they feel there is a need for stronger links between the education sector and the workplace to encourage more women into STEM. Nine in ten women were unable to identify several high profile women in technology such as Sheryl Sandberg.

Herman added: “However, the good news for women STEM graduates is that jobs in STEM occupations tend to be higher paid. In fact the pay gap is smaller within these STEM sectors compared to non-STEM sectors and overall women working inSTEM industries tend to earn more than women in other sectors.

“Many STEM employers are actively trying to recruit more women – they see the benefits of diversity for their profitability, and as a way to fill skills gaps. A number of companies now run Returnship programmes for women who want to return to STEM after career breaks – like internships but for mature entrants who want to refresh their skills. So it’s a great time to start or get back into working in STEM and may even help to reverse the gender pay gap!”