The importance of women in STEM post-pandemic

Happy African American building contractor and construction worker greeting with elbows during coronavirus epidemic, women in STEM, women in engineering

Although working from home has been a positive experience in the sense of boosting productivity and enhancing work life balance, several studies have shown that female employees have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

For example, many female parents have been left feeling completely exhausted, having to juggle work with caring responsibilities such as homeschooling. According to a study from the Office for National Statistics, more women reported that home schooling was having a negative impact on their wellbeing, with 53 percent struggling compared to 45 per cent of men.

Women in STEM are excelling

Despite this, many women across the country have excelled throughout the year. The pandemic has been such a turbulent time for many, yet we have seen an impressive amount of innovation, especially within the science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing industries. Professor Sarah Gilbert, for example, will go down in history as a co-inventor of one of the Covid vaccines, saving thousands of lives to-date. Megs Shah and Fairuz Ahmed have also done amazing work by creating an app to tackle the rise in gender-based violence during the pandemic. In addition, Anja Stolte is an engineering innovator who has combined the best of 3D printing to create metal parts using additive casting, helping businesses throughout the UK reduce their carbon footprint.

A positive impact

Throughout many industries, including the engineering sector, the pandemic has resulted in richer academic research through collaboration on digital platforms. The ability to work from home coupled with flexible working has given women in the industry an opportunity to see what is possible. It has resulted in greater diversity within the workforce which can lead to more creativity in engineering product solutions for all of society. Agile working has meant more inclusivity for single parents, disabled people and women taking care of older relatives. It has also allowed meetings to be more inclusive as a more diverse group of people can now attend a meeting virtually.

As we gradually ease out of the pandemic, it is great to see women using this time as a chance to innovate. It is important to note that every person is different, depending on their work and home life, and this pandemic has affected everyone in different ways. Prior to the pandemic, many women have felt as though they had to make a choice between a family or career. However, this time has hopefully given women the chance to showcase their ability, talent, and leadership skills.

Keeley Crockett headshotAbout the author

Keeley Crockett is an IEEE senior member and a Professor in Computational Intelligence in the School of Computing, Mathematics and Digital Technology at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK. She is a knowledge engineer and has worked with companies to provide business rule automation with natural language interfaces using conversational agents. She leads the Computational Intelligence Lab that has established a strong international presence in its research into Conversational Agents and Adaptive Psychological Profiling and practical Ethical AI. As an ambassador for women in STEM, Keeley regularly advocates for equality and inclusion on both a regional and national basis.


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