Far-reaching campaign is inspiring women
Recruiting women in STEM There is a real drive to encourage more women into STEM by enthusing them and employers, explains Helen Wollaston, chief executive of the WISE Campaign.
It is our aim to get 1m more women in the UK STEM workforce and judging by the early evidence of our WISE Campaign this is certainly achievable.
We are eagerly awaiting the release of new Office for National Statistics figures in August which will reveal how many more women are now working in science, technology, engineering and maths roles.
We expect to see the numbers continue to rise. Between 2014 and 2015 some 103,000 additional women came into the sector with 12,000 more professional female engineers now employed.
Our strategy is to have a campaign that reaches from the classroom to the boardroom.
I want to see a critical mass of women in STEM which means we need to get more women in different industries to make it a credible career option. This includes working with employers to create a working environment where both men and women feel at home and can thrive.
The battle is not just to attract women into STEM but to ensure they stay in the sector and progress into leadership positions.
The WISE Campaign has three strands; People Like Me and The Ten Steps initiatives plus The WISE Awards. Each element is helping to inspire girls and women to not only apply for STEM jobs but to have successful careers.
The People Like Me scheme is motivating girls aged 11-14. It is a set of training and teaching resources for teachers and our STEM Ambassadors, while there is an interactive app for the girls to download.
They are asked to use adjectives that they feel best describes them, such as ‘creative’, ‘persistent’, ‘driven’ or ‘organised’.
Each girl is then shown role model examples of women they can identify with who are happy and successful in broad STEM roles such as a ‘regulator’ or ‘entrepreneur’. These job titles appeal more than ‘scientist’ or ‘engineer’, which some girls and their parents can still view negatively when considering future career options.
People Like Me was launched in September 2015 and is a long-term project. We will track whether these girls do choose STEM-related subjects as they grow older.
For employers there is the industry-led initiative called The Ten Steps to sustain the pipeline of female talent in STEM.
We have 49 employers signed up who understand the business case for widening the talent pool to include more women. They want to find out how best to implement change within their organisations.
The ten steps act as a project for employers to complete over time as they benchmark against their competitors their ability to attract women and create an environment where they can flourish.
The steps include how to put initial plans in place, empower leaders to act, change internal mind-sets, be creative with job design, offer flexible working and be transparent when it comes to career progression opportunities for women.
This is a partnership between WISE and the Royal Academy of Engineering and we are working with the signatory companies to share experiences and examples of best practice.
Finally there are our WISE Awards which are all about inspiration and finding new role models who can help us to take our message into more schools, universities and employers.
There are 10 awards designed to showcase women in key STEM roles.
There include the Rising Star award for young women who are still training but whose achievements have inspired others; and the Employer Award. This is for companies that have effectively and successfully implemented The Ten Steps.
Last year this award was won by engineering, construction and project management company Bechtel which recruited 13% more females to its graduate programme in 12 months and reduced resignations by women from 20% to 9%. It achieved this through unconscious bias training for 400 senior leaders and the introduction of flexible working.
Today more than 40% of engineers working on the Bechtel/London Underground Vauxhall station upgrade are women.
One new award for 2016 is the Man of the Year award which will recognise men who are championing gender diversity and have used their influence to drive change in their own organisation.
The awards plus other initiatives show how the huge momentum behind promoting opportunities for women in STEM shows no sign of slowing down.