Today marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Women are doing incredible things in the science, technology and engineering sectors and the number of females taking up careers in these industries is continually on the rise. However, why is there still so few females in STEM roles?
Only 23% of the UK STEM workforce is currently female and in a lot of instances, women at these companies take on more people-orientated positions. Whether it’s a lack of female role models, traditionally male-dominated workplaces, gender stereotypes or the implications of family life; there are many theories as to why women aren’t being offered or aren’t taking up positions in these industries, despite having relevant skills.
A diverse workforce is more productive, imaginative and even healthier so it makes sense for companies to be offering opportunities to qualified females as well as males but do women want to work for you? As an employer, how can you ensure that you are attracting talented women to these technical roles?
Be Vocal About Your Diversity Goals
It may sound obvious but women in STEM roles want to know that you’re moving away from the stereotypical male-dominated perception of their industry. Make it clear that you want to make your workplace more diverse by speaking at events, networking with the right people, promoting a diverse employer brand and publicly setting diversity quotas. People need to see you’re making steps towards a more inclusive workplace, rather than just promoting this for a bit of positive PR. However, it’s crucial to have a good reason why. No business wants people to think it’s hiring individuals because it’s what’s expected rather than because they’re talented.
Inspire a New Generation
To promote opportunities and inspire women to join your business we need to start early. Partner with schools and universities to ensure STEM subjects are viewed as viable opportunities to the younger female generation. By inspiring girls from an early age will significantly increase your talent pool long term. We think this is worth the wait.
Remove Bias from Job Descriptions
When you’re recruiting for a specific role, the job description you write is key; there’s an art to crafting job descriptions that can help you to attract a wide range of candidates and avoid gender bias.
Look at the language you’re using carefully. Gender-related superlatives like ninja or Rockstar could put women off applying. Also, some adjectives are considered more masculine. Terms like manpower, fearless and ambitious have been known to resonate more with a male audience. To promote opportunities to females, you should neutralise your job descriptions.
If you’re advertising a job in another language, be careful about the genders used. Languages like French and Arabic have masculine and feminine nouns which could automatically bias your job ads, excluding a female audience instantly.
Also, research shows that women won’t apply for a job unless they have 100% of the skills listed on the job description. Make sure you think carefully about which skills are essential for the role and clearly define your must-haves from your nice to haves; it will make the world of difference to the applications that come through.
Actively Seek Female Talent
If you still aren’t getting the number of female applicants you’d like for a technical role, then why not source them yourself? With LinkedIn, it’s never been easier to find talented individuals with the background you’re looking for. Reaching out directly makes people feel valued and confident that their skills and experience match watch you’re looking for.
Another option is to run a strategic recruitment marketing campaign for your target audience. Using imagery that will resonate, language that will excite and with the huge variety of targeting options available for paid media, you can reach the desired audience on social media or anywhere on the internet.
Level the Interview Process
The interview stage is vital as it gives candidates an insight into your company culture. Having a diverse panel for the interview will make candidates feel welcome. As a woman starting a job in STEM, it’s important to see other women working for the business so you know you won’t be singled out and aren’t the token “female engineer”. If three people who are carbon copies of each other interview a candidate it’s not necessarily a bad thing but remember, that’s the only impression candidates will get of the people at your company.
If you can’t have someone in the interview which is female, ensure the candidate pool is diverse enough that no candidate feels alone. Show candidates the office to give them a sense of your company culture from the offset. This should quash any pre-determined judgements, even the playing field and ensures everyone knows the environment they’ll be working in.
Proposal Clear Progression Opportunities
Provide training and mentoring opportunities for all employees that will help them progress in their career. This will help your employer brand as it will reinforce the message that you take care of your employees. E-commerce website, Etsy was struggling to hire senior female engineers, so they started a training programme. Etsy Hacker Grants gives talented female junior engineers the experience and skills they need to excel at work. The programme was a success and grew Etsy’s number of female engineers by 500 in one year.
Ensure there are seats for women at the executive table so others can see female role models high up in the company. This makes it clear that there are opportunities for everyone to progress and grow with the business. However, make sure you elevate people based on skills and accomplishments, not because they tick your diversity quota, as smart individuals will see right through your tokenism.
Promote Equal Pay
We’re all aware of the gender pay gap and how ridiculous it is that this is still an issue in 2020. However, female engineers still earn 18.7% less than males. With Iceland recently making the headlines for making equal pay law and fining companies that don’t pay all employees a fair wage across the country, take inspiration and ensure you’re offering all employees the pay they deserve.
Offer Family-Friendly Benefits
Many women still feel inclined to choose between a career and family, so giving benefits that make balancing work and family life easier will help you to not only attract top female talent but to retain it.
Netflix offers parents of any gender up to a year off with full pay after the birth or adoption of a child. While Microsoft and Airbnb offer 22 weeks to new mums with full pay.
While this may not be affordable for some smaller businesses, offering flexible working regardless of gender, as well as the option to work from home, enhances your employer brand. It positions you as a company that cares about work-life balance and making your employees lives much easier both at work and at home.
There are many things you can do to make your business more appealing to female applicants even in the most technical and traditionally male-dominated industries. By following these simple steps your business can play a part in bridging the gender gap in STEM.