Categories
Career Returners Career Returners Careers Equality and Diversity

Gov Returners Programme for Women in STEM

Back in June Find Your Flex released an article questioning whether society is doing enough for women in STEM roles. Nine months later on International Women’s Day 2022, the government announced it’s plan to introduce a returner programme for women in STEM.

We’re happy that the government is catching up and acting on the clear path forward. Returner programmes are nothing new, Find Your Flex have hosted several returner programmes including STEM industry programmes.

However, a government implemented scheme designed specifically for women in STEM is a huge step in the right direction. Or is it?

How does a returner programme help get more women into STEM?

The aim of this programme is to close the gender-pay gap in the STEM industry. So how does this returner programme accomplish that?

In order to build upon something, the foundation needs to be maintained. Women who are currently in the STEM industry need to be retained and women who have stepped away from the industry for a time need to have entryways back, otherwise there will be nothing to build upon.

This is also about making sure the gap doesn’t widen by having women leave a role in STEM for temporary reasons and those roles being filled by men. And not having valuable knowledge and experience that women possess in this industry go to waste.

Women often report that they don’t feel as if they belong in engineering and computing fields … This more tenuous sense of fit with the professional role of an engineer was found to be associated with a greater likelihood of leaving the field.”

This shows there’s a battle on two fronts; trying to get women into STEM roles and trying to keep the ones already in place. Returner programmes are the middle ground; trying to get women back into STEM roles who have left.

Are women in STEM the priority?

The government implementing a STEM returner programme specifically for women is a wholly positive move. Although the way in which it was announced does bring into question how much of a priority this is really? It was introduced almost as a subsidiary of the transparent salaries pilot scheme, as it was showcased within that announcement.

However, STEM returner programmes for women feels like a totally separate scheme to transparent salaries. Though both can be used as tools to close the gender-pay gap, they also have other effects outside of that. Transparent Salaries affects all industries and tackles multiple issues. This programme focuses on one issue in one industry.

Getting more women into STEM roles and returning to STEM careers is a separate issue and a prominent one. It would have perhaps been more prudent if this returner programme had been announced separately or at least been given equal focus. This would have shown the government is just as committed to both.

Although, the fact that a government is running this programme is a huge step in the right direction. It shows that there is a need for more women in STEM roles in general and this should have a positive impact on that.

Returners and Retention in STEM could lead to further female talent Acquisition

Having a government backed returner programme will make it easier for women to return to higher level positions. Previously they have found this difficult if they did want to return to the STEM industry. Re-entering via roles they are overqualified for.

The 2021 STEM Returners index survey revealed that 61% of returners found the process of returning to the industry difficult or very difficult. Those who did return commented on being overqualified for their role and had entered at levels below where they were prior to their break.

This is one reason the returner programme will aid in helping new female talent enter the STEM industry. If experienced, qualified women are re-entering the industry at a lower level, this results in less opportunities for new talent. If qualified women re-enter at the same level they left, there will be more opportunities for new female talent.

There is also the chain reaction of the more women retained and returning in the STEM industry the more role models there are. An existing barrier is there is not enough female representation for girls in education to pursue a career in STEM.

A pwc report contained testimonials from female students. Some said they don’t want a career in tech as it is a male dominated industry. 83% of female students could not name a prominent female role model in tech. The more women in STEM, the more role models and prominent figures there will be.

The future of Women in STEM

No matter how you look at it, the future is far more hopeful for women in STEM after the government’s announcement. It’s one thing for businesses to individually or even collectively do their part to fix an issue. But when the issue is big enough to warrant government action, it results in an important shift within the industry.

Could more be being done? Of course! But this is just the beginning, getting more women into STEM roles will require far more time and investment to achieve the end goal. But this is a big step towards that, now we can focus on what the next step is.

For more information on women in the STEM industry click here.

Categories
Automation Career Change Careers Digital Skills Equality and Diversity Future of work Technology Industry

Cyber Security: Filling the Gender Skills Gap in Tech

Living in the digital age brings with it a whole new host of threats. 

The ever looming threat of automation and the number of job roles it will render as obsolete in the not to distant future. We can already see this in retail and hospitality industries, how many have replaced manned tills with self-service kiosks? The implications are there and to be sustainable, automation must create the same number of jobs it takes away. 

But there needs to be a learning curve to bridge the digital skills gap created during this process from now until 2025 when 10M jobs will fall out of the UK economy.   

People need to have the opportunity to learn the skills to be eligible for the new emerging roles, created by automation. 

This is why Skills City and Find Your Flex are stepping in; so we can provide these opportunities to those most in need of a “step up”. 

One of the main issues of the digital age is safety. 

Fraudsters don’t need to speak to you directly to steal from you, children cannot always escape school-bullies even in their own homes, wars these days are not always fought on land, sea or sky. 

All of these threats and many more take place online. Cyber-bullying, Online Fraudsters, Cyber-terrorists, Hackers etc. 

In the digital age, our lives are online, therefore the threats are too. 

So what’s the answer? 

Our physical safety is protected by the police, security guards, firefighters, paramedics, military and so on. 

Our online identities are protected by Information Security Administrators, Social Media Moderators, Security Software Developers, Cyber Intelligence Analysts and more. These roles have become just as vital to our protection as the former mentioned roles, all they require is the right tech skills to really set people on the right path.

Women in Tech

White males largely dominate the physical security roles mentioned previously. Unfortunately white males also dominate most roles within the technology sector. Currently only 23% of people in STEM occupations are female, including tech and this has to stop.  

The world is full of talented and intelligent women that could easily make a successful career within technology. And yet males dominate the industry.

It almost feels ridiculous to say this in this day in age; women are just as clever and technology minded as men. 

Why do I say that? 

Because clearly the message isn’t sinking in. 

This is why Skills City are adamant that women in the North West, whether they be graduates or career changers, need to consider a career in tech. 

We need to change these statistics and these online courses are the perfect way to do that. 

Every single student is guaranteed a job interview upon completion.  

The pandemic and the process of automation provides the perfect opportunity for us to see technology savvy women, recareer and make a HUGE DIFFERENCE to the technology workforce. 

GIF sourced from eloquence-of-felicities.tumblr.com

Cyber Security: We need our Cyber Soldiers

Cyber Security has become a vital part of national security. 

We hear about it all the time on the news, cyber terrorism and hackers are just as much of a threat to our personal safety and security as any physical threats.Often these things even hint at an act of war, and why wouldn’t they? 

With everything being online these days, a war can happen from the keyboards in your office and more easily than weapons could be mobilized on a battlefield. And the people sitting at those keyboards are becoming just as much our protective force as people in the military. 

The military have the stereotype of being for “big strong men” 

(although have you seen the Army’s latest recruitment ad to attract women? Check it out and Google Army + Emma). 

 The tech industry has developed a similar stereotype. 

Yet there was a supposed reason that women didn’t want to join the armed forces (and still do, especially in some divisions). The reason being that they weren’t thought to be as “physically capable” as men, which is bulls*#t. 

Yet even if that was true, there can be be no such reason for women not joining Cyber Security roles. 

Women are just a clever as any man. 

Just as capable of developing protective software and analyzing cyber threats. 

In this industry no one can deny that women are on any equal footing in terms of their capabilities and have a right defend their families and country as much as any man.

GIF Sourced from tenor.com

Ensuring our kids have Cyber Security

The world has had to accept that the majority of children spend a lot of their time online. And this of course brings threats that have already been plaguing us for years now. 

Our kids are not always safe from bullies or predators when they get home. This is a scary and uncomfortable topic that’s not nice to hear. 

But it’s real and we must discuss it in order to combat it. 

As adults we recognise that cyber bullying has caused many grown adults to leave social media and in the worst cases, cause depression, anxiety or even contribute towards someone taking their own life. Some have even had the terrifying experience of being stalked or threatened online.

So it’s completely understandable why there are many parents who don’t allow their child online because of these threats. 

While we’d never tell anyone how to raise their child, what we do know is as this is without question “The digital age”, preventing them from going online is likely to be a losing battle.  

Yes there are threats online but would you stop your child going to school to avoid bullying? 

Or prevent them going out with friends because there are ‘bad’ people out there? 

It’s the same basic principle here. Plus, so much social interaction between today’s youth is online. Keeping your kids away from it could affect them in other ways. 

So you might be thinking: “What can I do to help resolve this then?”

Like everything, nothing is black and white. You don’t need to either just let them go online and hope for the best or ensure they’re never on it at all. If you are a mother or father who is concerned for your child’s online safety, be a protective force for them and all children. 

You don’t have to be a techno genius who develops security software. With the basic tech skills taught in these courses you could become a Social Media Moderator or a Security Administrator. 

These are roles that actively seek out offensive, threatening or suspicious online behaviour and put a stop to it. 

If this is something you feel passionately about, equip yourself with the skills to do it.

In just 14 weeks, you could have the Cyber Skills to help keep our future generations safe. 

GIF Sourced from Pinterest

Cyber Security Online Course

Just like with any industry, the roles within Cyber Security vary and there has never been so much demand for all manner of commercial businesses looking for people like you NOW. 

The base skills for most cyber roles are taught at Raytheon Cyber Academy. Plus  it provides many transferable tech skills that would benefit another role within the sector.  

Automation will soon render many jobs obsolete. To create a new income in a sector that can offer flexible working, it’s imperative women join and participate in the tech workforce. We have to be the change we want to see. 

What if Cyber Security isn’t necessarily the tech avenue for you? 

Then you should definitely look at one of the other Skills City courses such as creative 3D Graphic Design and cloud engineering. Take look at courses from Unity Centre of Excellence and AWS re/start respectively. 

A career change may is both a smart choice but also an inevitability.

Check out all of Skills City tech boot camps here

Categories
Careers Equality and Diversity Future of work

Are We Doing Enough For Women In STEM Roles?

There’s no denying the gender gap that exists in so many industries, women in STEM roles are sadly no exception to this. But research into this has raised some concerning questions and even more concerning answers. There are not enough women in STEM roles, that much is clear but is enough being done to change that?

With the Edinburgh Science Festival coming up, we at Find Your Flex thought this is a topic we want to discuss. Exploring why this is still an issue and the possible solutions to this and why change in this area is so important.

Is there a gender gap in STEM industries?

Naturally we don’t just want to state there is a gender gap without backing it up. But the short answer is yes; there is a significant gap when it comes to women in STEM roles. This is proven by the PwC’s Tech She Can Charter and their report on Women in Tech in the UK. In 2017, WISE conducted research that showed that only 23% of people in STEM occupations were female. This makes over three quarters of the workforce in these roles male. Whats worse is that a separate study in the US shows that only 5% of women were in STEM leadership roles.

Now it would not be fair to say there has been no progress. As the research of WISE revealed that the number of women in STEM roles had increased by 2% from the previous year. Is this progress? Yes… is it enough? No. If this increase per year holds steady it would still be over a decade before there is an equal number of men and women in STEM roles. That is also not taking the pandemic into consideration, this could have had an impact on that increase percentage one way or the other. Either way it is not good enough, the gap needs to be closed at a far quicker rate. So, where does the problem begin?

The Lack of Girls Studying STEM Subjects in School

There are a lot of employment issues that when traced back to their source can start in education. PwC’s research shows that this issue may be no different. They conducted a survey that of over 1000 school students; 83% of the males were studying STEM subjects, compared with only 64% females. Now 19% may not seem like much of a difference however, when you take into account the number of STEM subjects and the number of students, this is still a concerning gap.

A similar statistic in university students studying STEM subjects shows a 52% male versus 30% female difference. But when you break it down the results are more shocking. For example Engineering takes 13% of male STEM students but only 2% female, which says a lot. But it still doesn’t answer the question of why? During interviews, young women stated they didn’t want to study STEM subject as it does not factor into the career they want. Though what is worrying is the response when asked if at any point during their education (including careers advice) a role in technology was suggested. Only 16% of girls had technology careers suggested to them, whereas 33% of males were given these suggestions.

This goes hand in hand with the fact that during interviews many of the young women indicated that many STEM subjects and roles are male dominated which is why they did not wish to study them. And they are right, these statistics prove that. But they also sadly prove that schools are not doing enough to encourage otherwise. And this needs to change.

Early years education and STEM

As signatories of The Tech Talent Charter we are aware of such organisations such as Tech She Can. A charter in which signatories pledge to work with  schools across the UK to educate and inspire pupils and teachers about technology careers.

Let’s not forget the importance of early years education. These children are our future. A future that needs the brightest and most imaginative individuals to be able to flourish, regardless of gender or background. This is the point when children absorb information like sponges. The formative stage where children learn more quickly that at any other stage in life. It is at this point we need to inspire our children. Our young girls need role models and a complete removal from gender bias in STEM. Perhaps the focus should be on our teachers and equipping them with the tools needed to do this.

Women in STEM roles in the Media and Pop-Culture

In PwC’s study, only 22% of students could name a well-known female working in technology. The truth is when you think of famous people in STEM roles, the vast majority are male. There are of course many pioneering women in STEM roles throughout history. Women like Ada Lovelace or Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and many more. Yet despite the numerous women who have revolutionized the world through their work in STEM roles, their names don’t immediately spring to mind. We tend to think of the Steven Hawkings or Albert Einsteins, but why? It could be down to the fact the media over the years have recognized and celebrated the male figures over women. Perhaps the media should be doing more to promote women in STEM roles. Especially during the pandemic, both men and women dealing with this issue have given information and opinions via news channels and in print.

In terms of pop-culture, there are women portrayed in STEM roles in film and particularly television. One that comes to mind is The Big Bang Theory, a comedy that originally started with a cast in which all the scientists were male. Though this changed as the series progressed with female scientists being showcased and two becoming mainstay cast members. Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz with a Ph. D in microbiology and Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler a neurobiologist, the latter of whom’s actress has a Ph. D in neuroscience in real life. The show and characters are to this day extremely popular. The two showcased how the females of the group were just as intelligent and successful as their male counterparts and had equally large personalities.

Though other hit television shows have also portrayed STEM female role models. Shows such as Body of Proof; featuring a female protagonist Dr. Megan Hunt; a former Neurosurgeon turned Medical Examiner who has a straight-talking, never-back-down attitude. Even featuring a female in a STEM leadership role as Dr. Kate Murphy is the Chief Medical Examiner. Though there are other shows that showcase females in STEM roles: Grays Anatomy, Casualty, Holby City, Doctor Who etc. So in terms of pop-culture there isn’t a lack of fictional females in STEM roles, so why is there still a lack of non-fictional females in these roles? Its high time life started imitating art on that score.

How to get More Women In STEM roles?

PwC believe that the technology sector must take steps to deal with some of these highlighted issues. However, this should be the responsibility of all STEM industries to get more women into STEM roles as a whole. First and foremost it is the responsibility of STEM organisations to get more involved in the education of young people. They need to do more to raise awareness and showcase the importance of these roles. Make them attractive to young women as well as men. Many students did indicate the reason they wouldn’t consider a role in technology is they don’t know enough about it. STEM organisations should also look inwards to ensure they are providing the women in their company with the same opportunities as the men. More women in senior STEM roles creates more role models and inspirations for future generations.

Schools also need to do better in encouraging girls to study STEM subjects and pursue STEM careers. The statistics above show there is not enough encouragement or access on either front. If girls voice concerns on entering male dominant industries, there needs to be encouragement to overcome this. The research showed roles that make a difference were appealing to young women. Therefore there should be encouragement from both schools and STEM organisations that pursuing these roles makes a difference. A shift in perception is the first and arguably most important step.

The media need to do better at portraying female STEM role models. Make a bigger splash about the life altering contributions females make in STEM fields. Its important that these women are at the forefront of STEM fields to give young women something to aspire to and show them that they are just a capable as any males in this area. Pop-culture is doing a good job at presenting women in these roles, however there is room for improvement. Perhaps television, film and books aimed at a much younger audience should feature more STEM characters. This very well could plant the seeds of girls pursuing STEM fields when they are older.

Hopefully when young girls are grown up enough to make a decision whether or not to pursue a STEM career, the world will be a different place. One where there are just as many female role models in this sector and no obstacles. Its up to society to drive these changes, we need do our best now to set the wheels in motion.

If you want to read more about inspirational women in this and other fields click here! Or more about The Tech Talent Charter then click here.

Categories
Equality and Diversity Flexible Working

Hello International Women in Engineering Day!

It’s June 23rd! Which means all the best people working in the engineering sector will be celebrating International Women in Engineering Day (INWED).

INWED is the ‘World’s biggest initiative celebrating the achievements of women in engineering and allied roles’ led by the Women’s Engineering Society (which, side note, is my favourite engineering organisation but that’s likely not so important!).

Engineers + women = #EngineeringHeroes

This year’s theme is #EngineeringHeroes which could not be more apt for me… Here’s why.

Design Her In
Design Her In – a collaborative campaign to find solutions for the fundamental barriers to women participating in the engineering profession.

Speak Out Revolution’s #DesignHerIn campaign, launched in response to experiences women were sharing in the Speak Out Dashboard, explored the fundamental barriers to women participating in the engineering profession. 

The campaign identified 11 themes from women working across a broad range of industries including nuclear, construction, defence, energy and transportation, and the collective insights were very clear – the profession has not yet designed women into it’s workforce. 

The Top 5 barriers women in engineering identified to their advancement.

Top 5 Barriers to women participating in the engineering profession
  • No representation at senior leadership level
  • Unchallenged everyday sexism
  • Poor leadership and management of female staff
  • No access to truly flexible or part time working
  • Unfair pay compared to male counterparts

Today I will be celebrating all women working in engineering regardless of their accomplishments. Women who likely work without representation in senior leadership, face everyday sexism, are poorly managed, don’t have the flexibility they really need and are paid less than. 

These women (~12% of the workforce at last count) drive innovation within the sector by continuing to contribute their diverse skills, experiences and backgrounds to design and deliver solutions that serve everyone in our society, in spite of working environments and cultures not designed for them. 

Creating a more inclusive profession

Frequently in discussion amongst my own professional network is the lack of flexibility in working patterns, and availability of part time working. This particularly impacts working parents and disproportionately women either blocking them from serious consideration for promotion or forcing them to leave the profession amongst other detrimental outcomes. 

Flexible and part time working patterns benefit many demographics (not just women), inviting diversity of thought into our workplaces, essential to any engineering organisation that values innovation. 

If the engineering sector were handing out wishes this INWED, my wish would be for all companies celebrating to make all their open roles (at the point of advertisement) full time, part time, role share and flexible with a strong remote component. 

I expect this would go a long way to fulfilling my second wish of an embargo on senior leadership explaining that the underrepresentation of women in their organisation is because “We just don’t get CV’s from women”… Sigh

So as you and your organisation celebrate your #EngineeringHeroes I’d like to ask:

What tangible steps are you taking to remove these barriers in your organisation…?

If you’d like to make my wish come true but are struggling with the how, reach out to Find | Your | Flex who can uniquely help your organisation. You could simply post your flexible roles on their job platform or ask about their power hour consultations. They completely understand that initiating and driving change within an organisation can be difficult. So, they are on hand to help you with any HR issues you have.

About Speak Out Revolution

Speak Out Revolution is a not-for-profit, founded in 2020, working to cancel the culture of silence on harassment and bullying in workplaces across the UK. 

They host the Speak Out Dashboard, available on desktop at speakoutrevolution.co.uk/dashboard, sharing global insights into workplace harassment & bullying and the route to resolution for targets of poor behaviours. 

If you’ve worked in a toxic culture or with difficult people, spare 10 minutes to support their work by adding your experience anonymously here.

About the author – Marie Hemingway

Marie is the founder and director of Speak Out Revolution.

Photo of Marie Hemingway
Marie Hemingway, Founder and Director of Speak out Revolution.

She is a strategy consultant helping businesses transform their people, processes and technology to drive positive business outcomes with expertise in strategic investment decision making, digital transformation and organisational change.

She is a board member for the Women’s Infrastructure Network focused on expanding the network outside of London, creating cross sector opportunities for women to network, exchange ideas and help shape the infrastructure agenda.

Connect with Marie on LinkedIn here.

emails suck right? Not ours.

subscribe here for your regular dose of flex news and jobs… (no spam we promise!)

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse on this website, you accept the use of cookies for the above purposes.