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Women in STEM 2021

Inclusive STEM attracts and retains the best talent

Kay Hussain

Chief Executive Officer, WISE, the campaign for greater gender balance in STEM

Research shows that diversity fuels innovation, increases productivity, profitability and stability and has never been more important.


We believe inclusive STEM attracts and retains the best talent. We must seize the opportunity to draw on the talents of everyone in our organisations and commit to building greater diversity and inclusion.

We want to see women represent a minimum 30% of STEM roles from entry level to boardroom. This is recognised as critical mass; once any minority reaches a third or more in a group, they no longer feel like they are a minority.

Take the lead

Evidence shows that embedding diversity and inclusivity in your culture is not just the right thing to do it, but also the sensible thing to do. Visible commitment from leadership is critical to deliver successful and sustainable transformation. Leaders need to treat this like any other business improvement project; associated targets, action plans and governance are essential.

Data driven

Use data, such as gender pay gap reporting, to help identify problem areas and work collaboratively to create tangible plans. Transparency is vital at all stages of building inclusivity. 

We want to see women represent a minimum 30% of STEM roles from entry level to boardroom.

Attraction and retention

Attract more women by being creative with the language in adverts and job descriptions. Research shows that the social-environmental purpose of a role is a stronger motivator for women than men, so talk about the bigger picture. For example, ‘you could be involved in developing technology that will help people live independently for longer’. Recognise the value of transferable skills to broaden the talent pool and attract experienced women via retraining programmes.

Retain employees by being transparent about how they can progress in your organisation. Develop people by providing secondments, mentoring and coaching programmes, and actively sponsor internal talent when opportunities arise.

Flexible working for all

The pandemic changed attitudes about the way we work. From now on, the focus needs to be on offering flexible working options, such as part-time, job share and hybrid models that do not disadvantage anyone. Employers must concentrate on outcomes rather than presenteeism. The whole employee value proposition and myriad of associated policies needs to be revisited with flexibility built into the very DNA; those who get it right will become employers of choice and magnets for the best talent.

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