How many female graduates enter STEM careers?

"The problem with that question, is that it's difficult to define what ‘STEM’ is. Is an environmental job STEM? Are media back-room roles in sound and lighting STEM? Take some common areas. Of last year's graduates who went into engineering jobs, 13.5 per cent were women. In IT, it was 19.1 per cent . In conservation and environmental roles it was 53.7 per cent . The proportion of women going into natural and social science roles — which cover biology, pharmacy, pharmacology, chemistry, etc — was 54.9 per cent."


What are the challenges for women in STEM roles?

"We have to be honest: it's a male-dominated sector and some women entering STEM careers will encounter attitudes that will make them feel uncomfortable. But, actually, most companies know they have to be inclusive or else they won't get the workforce they need; and, in the vast number of cases, male colleagues are very supportive."


Where are the biggest opportunities for female STEM graduates?

"The biggest areas — for all graduates, male and female — include surveying, which has a very serious skills shortage at the moment. Other areas of the construction industry with the same problems are town planning, project management and environmental health. These need a mix of good analytical and communication skills."


What can women graduates do to make themselves more employable?

"It must be said that women with STEM degrees are already very employable; but work experience obviously helps. We also need more women recruiters who understand and can articulate the challenges of women entering industries that have traditionally been male-dominated. There's often a confidence gap, so women in STEM must better express their own skills and abilities."


How can we inspire more women graduates to go into STEM roles?

"High profile, inspiring role models help, because they prove that women can thrive in these industries and compete on equal terms. We also need to mention the pay, which can be very good. And because these are fast-moving sectors there are lots of opportunities, which will be crucial to the future of the UK economy and the improvement of British society. It'll be exciting and rewarding."


What advice would you give to women considering STEM careers?

"Be adaptable. For example, be open-minded about where you work and go where the opportunities are. In STEM, many jobs aren't in the big cities, which might mean setting up in locations that you are unfamiliar with or that take you away from friends and family. Be willing to learn new skills, change your role and take on new challenges."