Making a difference for women in science, technology, engineering, and maths

How do we get more women to study these core subjects and choose these vital careers?

We want the UK to continue its rich history of innovation in science, technology, engineering and maths - a history that’s produced people like Darwin, Hawking, and Berners-Lee. According to Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE), women make up 14.4% of the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) workforce (1). Given that there’s currently an industry-wide skill shortage, where Britain has an annual shortfall of 55,000 people with engineering skills, the need to encourage more women to take up these roles is even more crucial (2).

The problem is, for many women there’s something wrong with the journey from school, to university, to work. According to the Women’s Engineering Society, 51% of female graduates go on to work in STEM roles, compared to 68% of male graduates. (3)

Even with practical routes like apprenticeships, there’s disparity between genders. Last year, a report from the Campaign for Science and Engineering found that only 4% of engineering apprenticeships are taken by women. (4)

As you might expect, the gender imbalance in the lead up to breaking into the workforce has resulted in male dominated science, technology, engineering and maths industries. According to the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey, 1/10 managers in these fields and 11% of these business owners are female.(5)

What are the girls’ points of view?

So what’s the issue? Why aren’t there more women interested or taking up science, technology, engineering and maths jobs? We need to think more about the journey that starts at school, and the information and support that’s given to girls on every step of that journey.

Perhaps, the best way to understand the problem is to listen to the people that are directly affected. We asked three girls to tell us what they think:

“Many people and teachers don't show girls that science or maths are options that are just as enjoyable and reachable as a job typically allocated for a woman. I think this is due to how society portrays women.” - Millie, 16

“Our teachers are always providing us with a lot of information about possible science careers. We also have careers ambassadors and science clubs to encourage us. But I think girls and young women are less likely to study these subjects at university, because jobs in industries like engineering are perceived to be stereotypically male. Girls aren’t willing to study the subjects, as they feel they may not be taken seriously.” - Chloe, 16

So the encouragement, in some cases, is there in schools - but the perceptions about male dominated industries remain.

“There aren't any female role models in the media. To encourage more girls to consider a scientific career, they need to make it look fun and interesting. I don’t think I’d consider a career like that, because it’s very complicated and you have to be very clever - I don't think I'm smart enough.” - Ellie, 12

What are we doing to change things?

We’re committed to inspiring girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths and supporting them at every step of the way towards their career. We currently have 60% of UK schools signed up to our award-winning education programme, The Pod, and more than 10 million children have participated in the programme.

At 9%, we’re currently well above the 4.3% UK average intake for female apprentices. We continue to work with schools and universities to encourage more people into the industry, and the great work of our ambassadors helps us to give students valuable insights into what’s needed to break into a career.

We’re also dedicated to helping women get the most out of their careers, once they’ve chosen to work for us. Our Women’s Network helps all women working at EDF Energy, not just those with science, technology, engineering or maths jobs, to see and meet their full potential.

Footnotes

(1) WISE analysis of Labour Force Survey, April - August 2014
(2) www.engineeringuk.com
(3) www.wes.org.uk
(4) www.sciencecampaign.org.uk
(5)

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