Blog > Featured > Girls in STEM: Redressing the gender imbalance

Girls in STEM: Redressing the gender imbalance

Research shows that women in STEM careers typically expect to be paid £7,107 less than men. Jacquelyn Guderley crunches the numbers.

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Women’s rights and female equality is a very hot topic right now.

We’ve seen rallies and marches across the globe challenging the unnerving and somewhat unexpected turn of recent political events across the pond.

Closer to home and in the workplace, most notably in the STEM sector, the battle for gender equality is more subtle, yet the global unrest means it’s more important than ever.

A new survey from totaljobs gets straight to the heart of the matter, unveiling some startling statistics relating to gender inequality in the STEM sector. STEM expert and equality advocate Jacquelyn Guderley gives the inside scoop on the numbers and asks how best to challenge the inequality.

Stats on STEM

Every year I wait with bated breath for the latest stats on the numbers of women in STEM (that’s Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) compared to their male counterparts.

It might seem like a strange thing to get so excited about, but when you’ve worked in an industry – the Women in STEM industry – for almost as long as it has existed, and run one of the most successful companies combatting the lack of girls going into STEM… well, it’s a big deal.

Crunching the numbers

2013 and 2014 were disappointing years. From 13% of women in STEM when I entered the industry in 2012, to 12% in 2013, and inching up to 14% in 2014, it seemed that we could fight as hard as we liked, yet women were not sticking around in STEM any more than they once were.

You’d think things must have been pretty bad in some places and that women’s faith and hope in the industry was almost non-existent. You’d be right.

The tide is turning

Gradually, the tide seemed to make a turn for the better. 2015 was a great year for us. From 14% in 2014, the percentage of the STEM workforce made up by women rose a whole 2 points to 16%. Cause for celebration! A whole 2 points.

Maybe our work telling girls they are good enough for STEM, that there is a place for them in STEM and that they will be as good as, if not better than, the boys in STEM, was finally paying off.

Almost four years on and a seed had been planted. We knew what we had to do – we had to water it. Today, the number of women in STEM sits at 21%.

Money talks

But the research carried out by totaljobs shows that the STEM landscape for women is still not where we want and need it to be.

Women in STEM can expect to be paid, on average, £7,107 less than their male colleagues (£36,571 vs. £43,678). This is only compounded at bonus time: men earn £639 more than women in bonuses.

Thankfully, there’s evidence that women excel in STEM industries; they received, on average, a £258 greater pay-rise and one month earlier than men in the industry. Sadly, the disparity in salaries is so great to start with that this makes little measurable difference in levelling the playing field.

STEM gender pay gap research

Small steps

Suddenly that 2 points increase doesn’t quite give me that same reassurance. However, slowly but surely change is happening, albeit in small steps. It’s no longer just Women in STEM and gender equality advocates such as myself noticing that things aren’t as they should be. Others are starting to take notice.

Statistically speaking

The totaljobs survey reveals that 39.5% of employees – male and female – do not believe their company actively promotes equality for all employees regardless of age, gender and other factors.

This 39.5% of employees will include women who have come to this conclusion because they themselves have faced, or are currently facing, gender based discrimination in the workplace – be that blatant or subtle.

I suppose, for all my excitement at that pay increase for women back in 2015, I’ve heard too many stories from women who work in, or have left STEM companies, to know that we can’t sit back on our laurels, happy as Larry.

Misogony and baby talk

There’s the “playful” misogyny which might present as men inviting their female colleagues out to the strip club for a team night out, particularly prevalent in London’s tech sector for example (somewhere I used to work too, though thankfully it never happened to me).

Then there’s the more insidious and damaging sexism, which can affect a woman’s career forever, where a company might refuse to promote her in case she gets pregnant.

Or – due to unconscious bias – a company will hire almost exclusively men, because the recruiters believe those male candidates displayed the characteristics they were looking for.

It’s easy for a male recruiter to appreciate male qualities; it’s much harder for a male recruiter to step outside of himself and appreciate the unique and more nuanced qualities that a woman can bring to a team.

Step change

There’s only one thing for it: we need more women making the recruitment decisions in companies – a step change in hiring for STEM.

But I don’t want this to focus on all doom and gloom, particularly as the numbers of women in STEM are now slowly increasing.

Women were once the pioneers of the “tech space”; in the 1950s, women were the original computer programmers. The code-breakers at Bletchley Park were all women too, while the men fought on the frontline.

Change is afoot

Also, when working at STEMettes, for every year that passed, we were greeted by an increasing number of girls who knew what STEM was.

They understood the importance of the STEM industry for our country’s future; they knew what great jobs and associated careers exist in this sector; and they believed that although they might be regarded as a little geeky by their peers still – there was a very definite place for them in STEM, should they want it.

And they did want it.

With a little bit more encouragement, not only will more girls want jobs in STEM, but they’ll get them too. 

Want to read more about gender and equality in the workplace? You might like these interviews…

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1 Comment

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  1. Gerry Tierney Saturday, 10 Jun, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    Sorry, but what a crock. Women aren’t going into STEM because they simply don’t want to. Ironically, any biology undergrad could tell you there are fundamental differences between men and women. Society and psychology are both direct functions of biology.

    When women are “paid less than men” is overtime, maternity leave, and the varying branches of STEM controlled for? How many female petrochemical engineers or industrial metallurgists are there? There is no pay gap, only an earnings gap, and women can address that by doing the same work as men in the same fields, at the same intensity.

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