Research shows that language and wording of your advertisements can make a big difference in attracting women and girls.
Traditionally, job advertisements in STEM focus on what scientists and engineers ‘DO’. Only rarely do they describe the attributes required in a way that resonates with women and girls. This means that women are less likely to recognise themselves, reinforcing the idea that STEM is “not for people like me”.
Review your recruitment processes
- Examine your current figures on women and girls applying for STEM apprentices in your organisations– what are the figures at each stage and how does this drop off.
- Consider setting a clear target for increased applications from women and girls at each stage of the application process.
- Review the minimum requirements for the role to make sure you are not unintentionally making it more difficult for women to meet the specification. A woman may not have had the same opportunities as men to gain hands-on practical experience in activities which are commonly associated with men. Siemens Digital Factory Process Industries and Drives (DF PD) reviewed their recruitment processes to make them more accessible and have dramatically increased their intake of women and girls.
- If you are using an external organisation brief the agency that you want a diverse pool of candidates. Make sure external recruitment firms are aware of bias and are not removing diverse and potentially suitable candidates at an early stage – brief them that you want to see all the applications from women who meet the basic entry requirements. EDF Energy used this approach with recruiters to boost their intake of women and girls in apprenticeships from 8% to 21% in just one year.
- WISE can support you by delivering a Recruitment Workshop which gives advice and practical hints and tips to organisations who wish to attract more diverse candidates, particularly women, with more inclusive job ads and focuses on the real challenges of removing both conscious and unconscious bias from the recruitment process.
Design activities and materials that appeal to women and girls
- There are some simple changes to your current activity and recruitment materials that can remove barriers and increase applications from women and girls: Think of job titles and how you package the role. Adding words like ‘design’ or ‘customer’ to the role has made a difference. Business administration and customer service roles are popular with women – can you incorporate elements of these into your technical apprenticeships to increase the appeal to women?
- The words used in STEM apprenticeship advertisements and materialise often appeal more to men and boys who like ‘action’ verbs. Women prefer to see themselves described in a way they identify with. Shape a role around competencies rather than tasks, for example, explaining that the types of people that do well in a particular STEM apprenticeship are ‘friendly, detail-oriented, and curious rather than simply “interested in engineering”.
- Women and girls are generally more interested in jobs that make a difference to the world - emphasise the contribution that the apprenticeship and your organisation makes to society as a whole. As an example, instead of describing the activities of a lab technician as ‘testing and analysing samples’, explain that the role is to analyse blood samples of patients to help doctors find the best medical treatments.
- Many women and girls are more comfortable working in teams and typically more inspired by collaborative activities than by competitive environments.
Make sure your advertising works for women
- The wording of advertisements can send messages that deter candidates from diverse backgrounds. Remove gendered language like “signalman” or “3-man team” – see our hints and tips section for support on how to put together great job adverts.
- Make sure you are including images of the types of people you want to recruit. Photos of men standing around a workstation don’t present a very diverse working environment and are not relatable to women and girls from different backgrounds. You can use any of the photos in this toolkit to help.
- Our AdBooster service can help you create high quality, impactful advertisements – download the guide and get in touch for more details.
- Women and girls often have time pressures that may not affect men in the same way. Caring responsibilities with children or relatives are the most common. Review your working practices for apprentices and see what you can do as a business to attract more women and girls. Consider
- flexible working,
- staggered start and finish times,
- childcare vouchers,
- away from home working.
- Advertise your apprenticeship through the Government’s Find an Apprenticeship website and through specialist services like WISE jobs.
- Broaden the recruitment channels you use – women and girls may not identify themselves as ‘STEM people’ and therefore may not be looking in ‘STEM places’. A few key points:
- If you advertise for apprentices in a builder’s supply yard, don’t be surprised if women don’t apply.
- Women use social media more than men – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter can be good channels.
- Use local media with the support of your PR team. Create a story about the recruitment and get these discussed on radio, in newspapers and social media. These are good ways to reach a more diverse age range of women and girls who might not actively be looking for a STEM apprenticeship.
- Organise “taster days” – and group potential applicants by age to give potential applicants a greater sense of “I’m not the only one interested”. Invite parents of school leavers along and plan a separate discussion with them to cover any concerns or issues they may have - O2 have used a training provider who organised open days where young people were taken round the site whilst HR people talked to parents about the benefits of the apprenticeship package. This was effective because the parents then got on side and made sure their daughter/son completed the application forms in time.
Monitor selection and assessment
- Set clear selection criteria linked to the role, taking into account that women often have less practical experience in STEM areas than men.
- Make sure the interview panel is as diverse as possible - if you can, put people from different backgrounds on the interview panel, including people who have completed an apprenticeship.
- Ensure the panel understands the goal of achieving a greater number of women and girls into apprenticeships – find out more about support and training to combat unconscious bias.
- Try and schedule multiple women on the same day of an interview or assessment centre as a way of encouraging them that “they aren’t the only one” interested in and considered for a role.
- If you are running a residential assessment centre, understand that parents may have concerns about young women being away from home in a male-dominated environment. Make sure your centre is proactive in supporting women and girls and this should help. Good things to do are setting up Women-only areas and female points of contact for candidates.
- Consider the timing of interviews and assessment days – inviting people to interview a long distance from where they live is always difficult, but it can be much more difficult for women who have caring responsibilities. Try and be as local as possible and avoid the prime school pick up and drop off times to make it easier for women to attend.
Recruitment doesn’t end when an offer has been made – an engagement plan between offer and start date can help to prevent drop off by women and girls. Siemens DF PD have a dedicated contact plan for their apprentices between offer and start and bring them into the company for two weeks before their official start to meet their teams, get used to the environment and absorb the company ethos.
Engage with candidates between receiving their offer and starting their training
It can often be some time between candidates receiving their offers and actually beginning training. Keeping in contact with candidates can help to relieve any worries they may have about starting their apprenticeship.
Where possible give all of your candidates a named contact to reach out to.
Consider offering apprentices an induction day to familiarise themselves with their surroundings and their team.