Understanding the gender imbalance in STEM with STEM Women

Currently, women make up just 24% of the STEM workforce in the UK, and in engineering roles, make up just 10% of the employees. STEM Women’s latest report unveils how the STEM Women community perceives gender differences and explores their attitudes towards working within these industries.

STEM Women introduces employers to its STEM Women communities through graduate careers events, women in tech community events, research, job boards and digital marketing services. STEM Women’s events and research are key to working towards a positive change in representation within these industries, by creating a supportive community of women, identifying role models and developing a pipeline of diverse talent.

For the last four years STEM Women has compiled a whitepaper report which aims to foster a better understanding of the underrepresentation of women in industries like science, technology, and engineering.

The report offers an insight into how the STEM Women community perceives gender differences and explores their attitudes towards working in these industries. In addition to STEM-related and gender focused topics, the data investigates issues surrounding career confidence, motivations behind accepting and declining job offers, and issues surrounding imposter syndrome.

STEM Women has collected data from 858 respondents over four years, all of whom identifying as female or non-binary, studying a range of STEM subjects at universities across the UK and Ireland,

In the surveys, STEM Women asked respondents a range of questions surrounding diversity in the workplace and what makes them choose certain career paths.

Many respondents highlighted that companies who have diversity initiatives are more attractive to them when looking for roles because it shows the employer’s commitment to equality. They also explained the importance of their place of work having a sense of community.

Respondents were very vocal in wanting to feel as though they belonged within a company. Many also said that companies who do not demonstrate a commitment to diversity showed a lack of respect to their employees and could signal a negative or toxic workplace environment.

The survey asked respondents to identify the biggest barrier they felt could prevent them from pursuing their chosen career path. Respondents were given a variety of ‘barriers’, of which they could only choose one.

In 2021, the barrier chosen the most was ‘strong competition’, which 28% of respondents chose as the main barrier they felt they would need to overcome. This was followed by ‘lack of experience’ at 24% and ‘lack of confidence’ at 16%. The least frequently chosen ‘barriers’ were ‘my economic background’ and ‘absence of role models’

It’s interesting to note that from 2021 to 2022, ‘lack of experience’ was chosen by 11% more respondents, making it the biggest barrier for almost 40% of those we surveyed. This could signal the continuing fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, in which many students were unable to complete internships and work placements during their university studies due to lockdowns and hiring freezes. This has clearly had a knock-on effect for 2022 final year students as they begin their job search.

Throughout the report, STEM Women demonstrate that diversity initiatives have remained either extremely or very important to the majority of respondents from 2019 to 2022, and over half of respondents, year on year, said that the gender balance of a company would influence their decision on job offers.

Respondents see the value and importance in a diverse workplace, explaining that they believe these environments help them to thrive, and to feel a sense of belonging and community. They recognise that this leads to innovation, empathy, and a healthy work culture.

Download the full report for free here.