‘Equity for men’ is key to workforce parity says IWD panelist

During an online panel discussion held by WISE on International Women’s Day (IWD), Anthea Hague head of sustainability for Network Rail’s IP division, explained that to achieve workforce parity, equity must also be extended to men.

She said: “My sister was able to take leave following the birth of her child, but her husband – a policeman earning significantly less – was not. That he was the main breadwinner for a time affected the financial situation of the whole family.

“Non-gendered access to paid leave following the birth of a child would have helped them all.”

The comment was made during a panel debate around equity in the STEM workforce. Anthea was joined by Hannah Davies, principal scientist from Pfizer, Yasmin Hind Assistant Product Support Engineer from Spirax Sarco, and host, Jack Painter WISE Interim Head of Products and Services (D&I).

The session followed an afternoon of online presentations to mark 2023’s International Women’s Day and its #embraceequity theme.

Anthea’s idea ties in with one long promoted by WISE, that equitable solutions will benefit all employees and lead to improved inclusion and belonging in the workforce. However, as the following story from Hannah shows, these solutions need to be much broader than any individual company.

“Access to child care is the biggest issue I’ve faced,” she said. “My daughter has special needs and I found that I was paying double for childcare because I needed a carer able to help with my daughter’s tracheotomy tube. This limited the hours I could work.”

“My employer [Pfizer] was very flexible and I increased my hours as soon as my daughter was three – the point at which I could access government-funded childcare.”

As Jack pointed out, to achieve full equity for STEM women we need joined-up solutions from government, business and education, as well as groups like WISE.  

WISE’s online IWD event began with a My Skills My Life (MSML) session followed by talks from STEM role models Anthea, Hannah and Yasmin describing their STEM careers and what attracted them to the sector.

MSML is an outreach programme that encourages girls of between 11 and 19 into STEM careers using a personality test to match them with a suitable job and inspiring role models in the field.