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Career progression ‘barriers’ forcing women out of STEM

One in three (35%) women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) jobs have said they have considered leaving the sector, with 51% blaming barriers to career progression.

The report by the Adecco Group UK & Ireland – The Gender Agenda: STEMing the gap – surveyed 3,000 school children, university students and employees about careers in STEM.

It found that seven in 10 girls are interested in working in STEM but that there is some confusion over how to develop a career in the field. Nine in 10 schoolchildren didn’t know that an apprenticeship can lead to a STEM career, and 19% of female university students who hadn’t pursued a job in the sector said it was because they simply didn’t know how.

Chief executive of the British Science Association Imran Khan said the UK “desperately” needs more girls studying STEM. "We want to create a society where everyone feels able to have their say on science and its direction,” he added.

Siemens Rail Systems UK MD Steve Scrimshaw said the report revealed “a real opportunity” to get more women and girls studying STEM subjects and pursuing related careers.

He said: “It’s crucial that when women do pursue jobs in STEM fields, they have the support of their employers. Any bias, be it conscious or unconscious, has to be stamped out.”

Adecco group sales director Greet Brosens said the gender divide in STEM “still poses a real threat”.

She added that many women who are interested in STEM careers don’t know how to make it because of the lack of support and “outright gender bias”.

Brosens said: “As it stands, we are failing girls and women in these fields. The persistent level of inequality in the STEM workplace is also a cause for concern."

She called on the government to work together with businesses to create opportunities for girls in STEM. “Parents, educators and employers have to talk more openly about the range of careers out there and the different routes into them, and make sure that girls and women feel supported to stay on this track,” she added.