The most pressing reason for employing more women as scientists, engineers and technologists is that firms cannot afford to do otherwise when struggling to find staff to fill their roles.
UK businesses suffer a loss of £1.5bn per year due to STEM skill shortages. This impacts potential development of new technologies as well as the wider labour market. (Inquiry on Equity in STEM education, APPG on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM, June 2020)
Meanwhile, 60% of businesses think their reliance on digital skills is set to rise over the next five years – a demand accelerated by COVID-19. (UK digital skills shortage risks Covid recovery as young people shun IT courses, The Guardian, March 2021)
Getting more women into STEM roles could also help address EngineeringUK’s concerns that 1.8 million engineers and technicians will be needed by 2025. (How changing attitudes are closing the gender gap in engineering, The Guardian, June 2019)
The skills shortage is exacerbated by the underrepresentation of women in the STEM workforce – they make up just 24% of all core-STEM workers in the UK, according to WISE. (What We Do, WISE, 2020). Similarly, some 60% of female STEM graduates also feel their future job prospects have been affected by the pandemic and 44% say they’ve had career opportunities cancelled. (Women in STEM Statistics, Women in STEM, 2021) meaning this number doesn’t look set to rise in the near future.
Widening the recruitment net will help employers address the gender imbalance in the workforce, as well as improve their own productivity and that of the UK economy more generally.
In fact, the UK government estimates that taking action to reduce the gender gaps in labour market participation, STEM qualifications and wages could increase the size of the UK economy by about 2% or £55bn by 2030. (Gender Equality at Every Stage A Roadmap for Change, HM Government, July 2019.)
‘With a shortage of skilled staff, excluding half the population as a possible source of talent for the sector makes no sense’ – Louise Stokes, director of sales and marketing at Digital Leaders.