Regional disparity of women in Core-STEM roles is cause for concern

Data showing regional variations of women in the Core-STEM workforce show gender balance in England worsened between 2019 and 2020.

Workforce data from calendar year Jan-Dec 2019 versus Jan-Dec 2020, showed the percentage of women in the Core-STEM workforce in England slipped 2% from 26% in 2019 to 24% in 2020. This compared with an increase for the UK as a whole from 24% in 2019 to 26% in 2020.

The picture for Scotland was more positive than that of England, with the Core-STEM workforce up to 27% in 2020 from 23% in 2019.

As an organisation, WISE has begun to look at regional breakdowns of some of the more prevalent Core-STEM roles. This data might be useful for members and partners looking to develop their recruitment policies.  

The data from Wales for the same period was limited and although it seemed to indicate that women as a percentage of the Core-STEM workforce made up 13% of the total in 2020 compared with 21% in 2019, these figures are unlikely to represent the full picture.

Full and part-time workers

Women working full time in Core-STEM roles as a percentage of the total increased across the UK between 2019 and 2020 from 79% to 81%; It remained the same in England at 79% in both years; and increased in Scotland from 75% to 79% during this time.

That women make up such a high percentage of the full-time Core-STEM workforce is worth noting since much EDI work focuses on part time women in Core-STEM roles. In actual fact the data shows that this group makes up less than a fifth of the overall workforce.

This increase in women working in full-time roles in the UK between 2019 and 2020 correlates with an increase in women working across the entire Core-STEM workforce.

Although we don’t have the data to understand the factors behind either increase it is possible that the increase is made up of early career women who don’t yet have caring responsibilities – often a reason cited by those wanting to take a part-time role.

To conclude, although the UK as a whole appears to be going in the right direction, there are different stories for the regions when considered separately. England-based EDI practitioners may want to investigate government and corporate approaches to gender balance in the Core-STEM workforce in Scotland to learn from their work.  In addition, WISE members and partners may want to contact us for more granular insight into gender balance within specific roles in regional Core-STEM workforces.

The ‘Core-STEM workforce’ explained

Core STEM includes science, engineering, and information and communications technology. Health occupations are not included within the scope of core STEM. Skilled trades are not included within the scope of core STEM but WISE monitors the participation of women in skilled trades because of the scale of employment in these occupations.

A full list of occupations included in Core STEM can be found here, listed by 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code.

A note on the data source

This analysis has been produced based on government figures from the Annual Population Survey (APS). The previous WISE analysis used the Labour Force Survey (LFS); Following changes, we now use the APS.

The APS uses a larger sample size than the LFS, which should make its results more accurate, it also allows for additional data to be published. The APS also has a smaller sampling error than the LFS, due to differences in how the data is collected.

The statistics quoted in this piece may differ from others previously quoted by WISE since they reflect the figures from the full calendar years of 2019 and 2020.

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