In the latest research by PA Consulting, they have concluded that more than ever, companies need to take a fresh look at recruitment through a DEI lens, if they are to improve both skills gaps and opportunities for women. 

Men have always outnumbered women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). While things have improved, there’s a long way to go to achieve a balanced workforce. It’s an issue PA Consulting has explored through a number of measures. Their award-winning ‘Women in Tech’ network promotes diversity through inspirational learning opportunities and events. And PA Consulting’s latest research points to some powerful opportunities and practical steps for organisations to make it easier for women, trans, and non-binary people to work and succeed in STEM.

They carried out quantitative and qua

litative research into what people are seeing and experiencing and what they think would make a difference. As well as understanding the state of play, PA Consulting wanted to use the results and their experience and expertise to come up with solutions. By consulting 300 senior people in an online survey across the US and UK, supplemented by 16 in-depth interviews with gender experts, decision and policy makers and other professionals in STEM businesses, they have come up with a solution for improving diversity in the workforce.

What their results tell us about the state of the nation

First, the good news. Over half (56%) of those surveyed said gender diversity is a top priority for their organisation – on a par with work-life balance. And one fifth (17%) believe the issue has top priority over all other factors like mental health issues, sustainability, and company culture.

78% agreed they’d seen a strong improvement in encouraging and supporting gender diversity and inclusion in STEM roles over the course of their careers. And 80% agree a more diverse workforce is crucial to building a better workplace for the future.

Now for the flipside…

But then there were also concerning findings. Satisfaction with the way things are varies and there’s no agreement on the main barriers to improving gender diversity. Women and more junior staff aren’t as happy with the current scenario as men and the most senior people we surveyed. And the trans non-binary community feel they’re an afterthought in some companies. What’s more, it seems people often see the problem as someone else’s responsibility.

In truth, the ultimate responsibility lies with business leaders – they need to make gender diversity a priority and clearly highlight how everyone can play a role in closing the gap.

How leaders can bring about change

PA Consulting explored the options for bringing improvement – asking respondents about the four main stages of the employee experience: attraction, recruitment, retention and retraining. That allowed them to identify the three actions people believe would be most effective – and the simplest to implement at each stage:

Attraction

  • Promote and advertise flexible working opportunities
  • Openly advertise equal and competitive salaries
  • Demonstrate tangible commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I)

Recruitment

  • Remove bias at interview stage
  • Offer women-centric benefits and communicate these during the recruitment process
  • Actively increase awareness of STEM roles among students and adults

Retention

  • Build an inclusive and safe culture through networks
  • Create a supportive and committed leadership team that encourages growth and development
  • Encourage healthy work-life balance

Retraining

  • Increase the provision of on-the-job learning
  • Uplift knowledge and skills with training
  • Be more open to cross-skilling and career change.

Overarching priorities

Learnings from PA Consulting’s qualitative research enhance these detailed recommendations. These interviews pinpointed four main issues STEM companies often miss in attempting to improve DE&I. Leaders need to:

  • Look beyond flexible working – it’s not a silver bullet. To be most effective it needs to be personalised, but also combined with the other levers the research identified

  • Make retraining a viable option – women, trans, and non-binary people often fall through the cracks here, so it requires outreach and needs to be flexible
  • Integrate DE&I commitments within strategy – leaders should show they believe gender diversity makes business sense
  • Understand intersectionality – businesses need to consider the impact of any given policy or initiative on all groups.

Find out more

You can read the detailed results in the full report. For PA Consulting, diversity is about more than equality and fairness. It’s about creating a positive human future by helping society evolve and by inspiring the next generation.