06 August 2018 | Lucy Speed
Lucy Speed, HR adviser at Boulting Ltd, explains what employers need to do to encourage female graduates to consider careers in STEM.
Professor Dame Julia Higgins said in a recent report that "an ill-judged quip that girls 'can't' do maths, or physics is 'too hard', can lead to girls making life-changing decisions that alter the subject they study or the career they pursue."
Engineering contributes 26 per cent of GDP but faces an unprecedented skills shortage. But what can employers realistically do to encourage the next generation of female graduates to consider STEM as a viable career option?
Adopting a mentorship system can help women feel less alone in a workplace in a disproportionate sector. Pairing up employees to share experience and knowledge helps to create an inclusive environment and can help to retain staff.
The Women Engineering Society (WES) set up its own mentorship programme to support women in STEM roles and attest to the confidence, improved listening and coaching skills and employment progression of those who participated.
Providing an environment that accommodates flexibility for different needs can also attract female employees. Understanding a person's needs, whether childcare requirements or scheduling time off work around holidays, will allow your team members to reaffirm their work-life balance.
By capturing the minds of the next generation of female STEM graduates, we will see more girls pursuing a career in the sector. But a lot of the work must start at school level.
Integrating STEM-style learning through activities or guest speaker sessions into classrooms can help students to consider their future paths. Working with and supporting teachers to understand what a STEM career entails will also open up conversations with students about what's possible.
Additionally, organisations can incorporate student reach-out or collaboration programmes to help harness talent from younger generations and offer apprenticeship opportunities.
It's vital for engineering sector bodies to recognise the importance and potential of the female workforce.
Lucy Speed is HR adviser at engineering solutions provider Boulting Ltd