Closing the STEM Gap: New Report Offers Practical Steps

WISE Member and world-leading business consulting organisation PA Consulting has released an insightful new report, focused on practical and achievable ways to improve gender diversity in your business. 

The report, compiled by their award-winning Women in Tech network, offers practical steps for making progress in your organisation, and dives deep into where powerful opportunities may lie for making vast improvements to gender balance in STEM. 

The report highlights the fact that in 2022, three in four companies said they were experiencing skills shortages and difficulties with hiring – a 16-year high.

Women make up only 28 percent of the workforce in the US, and 24 percent in the UK, which is forecasted to rise to around 29 percent by 2030. 

Despite this forecast, the report says there are “clearly challenges to overcome, in order to truly achieve much greater balance”.

Unlocking a wealth of untapped potential 

The report reads: “From our many years of working with clients and researching how to innovate successfully, we know the full benefits of diverse teams. That includes the positive impact on a company’s bottom line. 

“Research has shown there would be an extra £123 billion in profits in the UK alone if companies where women make up less than 33 percent of their executive committee performed as well as those with 33 percent or more.

“To build on this, we carried out quantitative and qualitative research into what people are seeing and experiencing, and what they think would make a difference. 

“We didn’t just want to understand the state of play, we wanted to combine the results with our experience and expertise to identify solutions.”

Diversity in STEM: Signs of progress

Data collected by Women in Tech shows positive signs in terms of attitudes to and progress around gender diversity. 

With most respondents in senior roles, over half (56 percent) consider gender diversity in STEM a top three priority for their organisation – on a par with work-life balance.

And one fifth (17 percent) believe the issue has top priority over all other factors asked about. These included mental health issues, sustainability, and company culture.

“Considerable structural barriers”

A total of 70% of respondents still believe there are considerable structural barriers which are hindering progress. 

Despite this majority result, there’s little agreement on what’s most significant. 

The report reads: “There’s a sense that some people think it’s someone else’s problem to solve. And the trans and non-binary community feel they’re an afterthought in some companies.”

From the analysis, three main thematic groups emerged:

Organisational – including issues such as pay, flexible working opportunities, and pregnancy support 

Societal – issues such as racial bias intersecting with gender bias, discrimination, and few women studying STEM subjects

Interpersonal – including lack of male allyship, networks, and leadership support.

“Each seniority group was more likely to identify a barrier they couldn’t or wouldn’t usually get involved in influencing or removing, as the most significant in attracting women to STEM roles. 

“C-suite leaders are 20 percent more likely to select the lack of employee-led networks and communities as the main hindering factor. Middle managers are 16 percent more likely to see lack of C-suite mentorship and sponsorship as the main barrier. 

“And young STEM leaders are 39 percent more likely to blame the lack of HR policies, such as support during pregnancy or motherhood, as the key factor hindering progress. We believe that ultimate responsibility lies with business leaders – they need to make gender diversity a priority and clearly highlight how everyone can play a role in closing the gap.”

Closing the STEM Gap: Read the full report

The report is available to read, and includes in-depth data and analysis, practical steps for making progress, and the story revealed by research. 

Read the full report here.