For too long, many STEM industries have been devoid of women. According to the Women’s Engineering Society, the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers in the whole of Europe, as they make up just 11% of the total workforce. Meanwhile, only 17% of ICT professionals are female.
But things are changing. As the conversation about gender equality grows louder and campaigns gather pace, more and more women are considering a career in science, technology, engineering or maths.
Interested in joining them? Here are just four of the reasons why it’s a great time for women in STEM.
1. There’s a severe skills shortage
The UK needs
engineers by 2025 to meet demand
Science-related industries will account for
of job openings by 2023
STEM sectors including science, technology, engineering and mathematics are currently experiencing an enormous skills shortage. There’s a shortfall of approximately of 69,000 people per year and employers say that 43% of STEM vacancies are tricky to fill.
This is great news for women wanting to pursue a career in STEM, as there are plenty of jobs on offer and the demand for skilled workers is predicted to increase. By 2023 science, research, engineering and tech jobs should account for 7.8% of all jobs in the UK.
While computing services are likely to see the most job openings, EDF’s report Jobs of the Future also predicts high demand from some surprising industries, due to their reliance on technology and their importance to the economy. These include retail, PR and consultancy, legal services and accounting services.
EDF’s research also reveals that 22% of STEM vacancies will be new jobs and that there won’t be enough graduates and apprentices to do them. So if you fancy becoming a geotechnical design engineer, an intelligence consultant, a robotics engineer or a data scientist, it’s definitely worth developing your STEM skills.
2. There’s a superb range of study options
Although Research from Microsoft shows that girls’ interest in STEM subjects declines sharply between the ages of 11 and 16, when it comes to taking STEM subjects at GCSE level, female students actually do very well. However, when they move on to A levels, girls tend to avoid studying physics,
computing and further maths. This restricts their access to many high level technology and engineering related qualifications, as well some stem sectors.
Statistics show that when female students do study further maths, computing and physics at A Level, they do extremely well, giving them access to a vast array of STEM degrees. Engineering, genetics, robotics, astronomy, civil engineering, zoology, geology, meteorology, satellite technology, marine biology, product design and chemical engineering are just some of the degree subjects available to young women with STEM A Levels.
graduates are female, but if we can encourage more young women to study the right STEM subjects at A level, we will achieve greater gender equality.
The good news is that change is afoot! Campaigns such as Women in Science and Engineering’s People Like Me are challenging negative stereotypes by promoting STEM careers and STEM subjects in UK secondary schools. Their aim is to make it “as easy and natural for a girl or a woman in the UK to choose and do well in physics, maths, computing, engineering or construction as it is for a boy or a man.”
As part of their campaign to encourage a million women into STEM careers by 2020, WISE also support employers who want female students to apply for their apprenticeships.
people began an engineering apprenticeship
3. STEM employers want to recruit women
Businesses are realising that the success of the UK’s industrial strategy depends on getting women into STEM jobs. Employing more women also gives companies a wider pool of candidates to choose from and has been shown to improve both productivity and customer experience.
The numbers are still low, as women make up just 23% of the UK’s STEM employees and a whopping 73% of female STEM graduates end up leaving the sector. However, many STEM industries are actively promoting gender equality and in 2017, the number of women working in STEM roles rose by 61, 430.
Female professional engineers
(11% of the total)
Female science and engineering technicians rose by
(27% of the total)
Female ICT technicians rose by
(19% of the total)
Companies determined to continue increasing these figures include Cavendish Nuclear, which aims to become one of UK’s top employers for women within three years. This is quite a challenge, considering that 80% of its current workforce is male.
To encourage female employees, Cavendish Nuclear have set up at “Women’s network”, designed to boost the number of women who join the company and gain promotion to senior roles. They’re also trialling blind recruitment in order to tackle any unconscious bias.
Sheridan Ash, who is the Technology and Investments director at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, also wants to attract female employees into STEM fields. She’s particularly keen for women to celebrate their gender differences:
“Strangely, it’s not always the technical skills that progress your career and make you a leader in Technology – it’s skills such as building authentic relationships with people and being able to “walk in the shoes” of others that can often make the difference.”
Pricewaterhouse Coopers runs a number of events designed to attract women, including a 3-day Women in Tech programme. This offers young women the chance to shadow successful female role models in the technology industry. The company also supports women via the Tech She Can charter, which inspires them to get into tech careers.
4. Careers in STEM are rewarding
According to a London Economics study, having just one STEM A Level can increase women’s earnings by 29.4%. A level 3 apprenticeship in engineering or manufacturing technologies could boost their lifetime earnings by £111,900, while a degree in a STEM subject could boost them by £252,000. Average earnings vary depending on your choice of subject.
Average earnings for STEM graduates in 2018
But of course a career in STEM isn’t simply about financial rewards, as many STEM industries also have the potential to transform lives. Cardiff University’s Karen Holford inspires young women to become engineering students by explaining how their skills could change the world we live in:
“We’re the ones concerned with water security, clean energy and combating global warming. We install solar panels in remote African health posts so people have access to electricity and solar fridges to store life-saving vaccines. We design better sanitation systems for refugees, clever bike lights to make cycling safer and innovative tools to help disabled people live fuller lives.”
Impressed by the benefits on offer for women in STEM? Whether you’re choosing a course, applying for jobs or helping your daughter decide on her future career, don’t make any decisions until you’ve explored the exciting range of careers available.
Head over to to our website and check out our selection of STEM courses.