Diversity is hitting the headlines everywhere, and STEM is frequently criticised for its lack of diverse teams. Should STEM organisations be concerned?

Well, while living in Dorset in the 18th century, a woman called Mary Anning discovered several fossils that would change the way scientists thought about natural history. Her observations laid down the foundations for Darwin’s theory of evolution. However, because she was female, Mary was was never allowed to join the Geological Society of London, nor to pursue a career in science.

Painful reading

While diversity and the visibility of women in STEM has dramatically improved since (there have been 22 women winners since 2001), STEM diversity is still a thorny topic. The World Economic Forum reports that “just 3% of students joining information and communication jobs across the globe are women”. While it rises to 5% for mathematics ad 8% of engineering manufacturing, and construction courses, these figures are still painfully low. Especially when the actual number of women working in STEM only sits at 22% globally according to stemwomen.co.uk.

These figures are thrown into a stark light when you consider that many STEM sectors and businesses are facing an ongoing skills shortage. Tech is changing too fast for most businesses to keep their workforce up to speed, and this global talent shortage has been rumbling on for a while.

It’s getting critical

This becomes an even clearer issue for business-critical roles like those in AI, robotics, data analysis, and other emerging industries. While growing and developing businesses are crying out for skilled talent to fill these roles, there aren’t enough specialist graduates or experienced workers to do so. Because these jobs didn’t even exist ten years ago, it’s no surprise they’re currently under-skilled. In the US, STEM employment is due to increase by 17% by 2024. At present 84% of the current workforce are white or Asian men, but this pool of people isn’t large enough to continually feed the growing need for skills. With a lack of women in STEM and a skills gap to close, would attracting more diversity into these workplaces benefit everyone? It could definitely go some way towards it…

How to attract women?

But these industries need to become attractive to women first. This means working with educational establishments to dramatically improve the number of women going into STEM at university. It means looking at their compensation and making it more attractive to women by looking at flexible working, better maternity packages, and good healthcare where applicable. It means paying a lot more than lip-service to diversity in the workplace.

Many respected studies have shown that diversity isn’t just something we should be practising, it’s something we need to practise. One report by https://www.scientificamerican.com/ says that diversity in a workplace makes the whole workforce smarter by altering views on subjects and fostering innovations. All of which can help lead to a healthier bottom line. A 2007 study by business professors Cristian Deszö of the University of Maryland and David Ross of Columbia University showed that “female representation in top management leads to an increase of $42 million in firm value.”

The way forward

Many businesses aren’t sure where to start with adding diversity to their hiring process, or how to include it in long-term talent strategies. The process can be a daunting one to embark on. If everyone who is applying or being found for roles looks the same sounds the same, and acts the same, you could feel like you have no choice but to hire them. However, if diversity is truly on your radar, that can’t be accepted. Whether it’s sourcing the talent for you, or conducting a study on the diversity in your area to provide insightful and in-depth knowledge, there are outside companies that can help.

Talk to Solutions Driven today to see how our recruitment services can help. Alternatively, engage our team to create a bespoke Talent Mapping  report to highlight the areas where you should be focusing on.