woman wearing a white lab coat working on an engineering project, International Women in Engineering Day

Why 2021 could be an awesome year for women in STEM 

woman wearing a white lab coat working on an engineering project, International Women in Engineering Day

Article by Sarah-Jane McQueen, General Manager of online courses provider CoursesOnline.

Over one million British women now work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, a number which has risen by 350,000 over the last ten years.

Keen to swell the ranks? Whether you're a career changer or a fresh faced graduate, this blog post is for you.

Read on, as we explore five reasons why 2021 could be an awesome year for women in STEM.

  1. You’ll be in demand

From the scientists developing vaccines and tests, to the epidemiologists advising governments, the recent global pandemic has highlighted the vital role that STEM professionals play in the modern world. However, nine out of ten STEM businesses are finding it hard to source staff with the right STEM skills.

The result of these shortages? According to STEM Learning, the UK’s biggest provider of STEM education and career support, the lack of STEM skills is costing businesses £1.5 billion per year in recruitment, temporary staffing, extra training costs and inflated salaries.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Thanks to awareness campaigns by organisations like WISE (Women into Science and Engineering), 96% of employers are now keen to address the UK's STEM skills shortage by broadening their recruitment pool. To promote gender equality, many of these employers are making their workplaces much more female friendly. 180 UK businesses have also joined a new WISE campaign called Ten Steps, which helps employers to improve their gender balance.

  1. You could help to make a change

The statistics are encouraging, as women now make up 24% of the core- STEM workforce. However, WISE argues that this number needs to carry on rising, as 30% is the critical mass level at which a minority group of women become able to create lasting change.

When it comes to closing the gender gap and smashing gender stereotypes, increasing the visibility of women in STEM is key. This is normally a time consuming process, but thanks to Covid-19, the media has been highlighting the roles of women in science and related fields. A great example of this is August’s edition of Vogue magazine, which featured Professor Sarah Gilbert, one of the first scientists in the world to move into human trials of a Covid vaccine.

  1. You could become a role model

Despite the increase in women pursuing STEM jobs, confidence is still an issue. In 2019, research showed that 25% of women didn’t study STEM subjects, because they didn’t think they could cope with them. This lack of self confidence is also reflected in WISE’s 2020 analysis of A Level entrants, which reveals that female students represented just 14% of computer science A Level entries, 29% of physics entries and 33% of design and technology entries.

However, there are definitely reasons to be optimistic, as research carried out by HP and the Fawcett society shows that 70% of young women would now be interested in pursuing a technology related career. In 2020, female students also gained more science A Levels than their male counterparts for the second year running.

To capitalize on this increasing enthusiasm for STEM subjects, WISE have recently launched their 1 Of The Million campaign, which invites women working in STEM to upload a profile picture and a job summary to an online clickable collage.

Participants can also add their profile to the MY Skills My Life careers platform, which enables young women and girls to explore career options and STEM subjects that match their strengths. Kickstart your career in 2021 and you could be part of this inspirational campaign!

  1. You could provide a fresh perspective

“The world has primarily been designed by men for men”, according to the president of Tech UK, Jacqueline de Rojas. Citing the example of early smart watches which had no female health tracking features, De Rojas points out that boosting the number of women in STEM fields will ensure that future scientific innovations benefit everyone.

But women contribute more than just a different perspective. Head of Sky’s software engineering academy Conrad Langworthy, believes that women's "detailed approach"  introduces an "extra dynamic into software development" and makes for better teams. According to WISE, women are also more likely to possess the adaptive creativity skills that are highly prized by many STEM employers. And research carried out by Aston University’s Business School, has shown that gender diversity boosts creativity, lateral thinking and the ability to solve problems.

  1. Opportunities to retrain are increasing

Just a 10% increase of women in STEM careers could boost the UK’s economy by £3 billion, according to recent research from WISE in partnership with Amazon. Meanwhile, a 2019 study carried out by HP revealed that 45% of women would be willing to retrain for a technical job if they were given the chance. So it’s not surprising that the government and business leaders are working to create new training opportunities for female career changers.

 Companies that already run retraining initiatives include:

  • Amazon-Their Amazon Amplify programme and STEM degree apprenticeships encourage more women to pursue careers in technology, ICT and innovation.
  • Sky-Their Get into Tech initiative offers training in the fundamentals of software development. This gives women the skills to apply for entry level jobs.
  • Jellyfish Training-Their in-depth digital marketing programmes offer the chance for a career that combines creativity and tech.
  • IBM’s Tech RE-Entry Programme-This paid programme is for technical professionals who’ve taken a career break and want to retrain for AI and data roles.

Have we inspired you to kickstart your STEM career in 2021? Whether you want to work for NASA or become a software developer, why not start by gaining some of the skills you’ll need?

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