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How to encourage more women into the STEM workforce

We spoke with the founders of Tech She Can to learn more about their experiences as women in STEM and to gain insights into what employers can do to encourage more women into the tech workforce.

How to encourage more women into the STEM workforce

According to STEM Women, females make up 24% of the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) workforce in the UK. And by 2030, this figure is expected to increase to 29%. Although this is a promising estimation, the current reality is that less than one quarter of the STEM workforce are women.

To learn more about what can be done to improve the gender balance in STEM roles, we spoke with Sheridan Ash MBE, and Dr Claire Thorne, the founders and co-CEOs of Tech She Can:

The key to improving diversity in tech is to tackle the root causes of the issues across the whole of girls and women’s lives

We need long term solutions that start where the issues begin with girl friendly tech career education and role models, through to women friendly initiatives and pathways into tech training at all stages of a woman’s career, including for pivoters, returners and older women.

Tech She Can works with its members, government and partners to provide initiatives and pathways into tech that directly address what’s putting girls and women in tech careers. These include..

Showcasing relatable female role models 

One of the biggest challenges women face in technology is the lack of female role models to be inspired by, and upon which to base a career. A study commissioned by CWJobs, has shown that role models are more important for women than men. In fact, 60% of women working in STEM say that they have been inspired by a role model, compared to 46% of men.

Employers need to showcase the achievements of their female employees both internally and in their recruitment campaigns. Having more women featured in case studies and recruitment resources can inspire others to apply for roles.

For example, Tech She Can has published a series of video case studies that showcase the careers of women currently working in the Technology workforce; these women are at early to mid stages of their careers and are more relatable to younger women and girls.

Tech careers and skills education in schools 

To inspire the next generation to pursue a career in tech, companies can work with schools, colleges, and universities to make all students but especially girls and young women students aware of the different tech careers and roles that are out there.

It’s important to connect passions with tech, for example being able to describe how technology and technology careers can help to address climate change. Employers also have an important role to play in advising schools and students alike on the different routes into tech. Claire says: ‘‘We really concentrate on the early stage of the pipeline. So, everything we do is completely free for schools, teachers, parents and careers advisors to access because we’re fully funded through our members. We start really early on at age 5, and we have a whole lot of resources to inspire children – boys and girls – to think about what tech careers they could pursue.’’

Providing schools with free resources ensures that students have access to the inspiration as well as the practical advice they need to enter into the industry. Helping female students make the connection between technology roles and the real world through ‘day in the life’ case studies, sector overviews, and company profiles, can also help them envision a future in the sector.

Returnships and apprenticeship programmes

Employers can encourage more women to return to the workplace after maternity leave by implementing returnship programmes and making them an extension of a flexible working ethos. Although most returnships include training, the cost of welcoming a returner back to the workforce is typically less than training a newly-qualified graduate.

Likewise, apprenticeship programmes can encourage school leavers and experienced women alike to join the STEM workforce.

Sheridan says: ‘‘We’ve developed some programs specifically around things like apprenticeships. For example, our apprenticeships could appeal to women early on in the pipeline, or to those that maybe haven’t had a tech career at all. Equally, they could appeal to women that have had a tech career but have been out of the workforce a while and need upskilling.’’

Tech She Can reports that more than £3.3 billion of ‘waste’ apprenticeship levy was returned to the UK Treasury by employers between 2019 and 2022, so it’s clear that companies aren’t making the most of opportunities in this area.

To improve the gender balance in the STEM workforce, employers need to leverage apprenticeships that are purpose-led and offer appealing childcare facilities during the holidays.

Providing access to female-led communities

In a typically male-dominated industry, it’s important for women to have access to female-led networks and communities where they can discuss shared experiences and career goals.

Sheridan says: ‘‘When people ask me to talk about my champions, up until a few years ago, it was literally 100% men – and good for them. I’ve had some amazing male allies that have pointed me in the right direction. Now, I have my Tech She Can community, which has so many inspiring women who support each other. We coach each other, help each other along the road, but also up the ladder.’’

By partnering with communities like Tech She Can, companies can provide their female employees with the resources and information they need to get ahead in the industry.

Working with Policy makers 

There are a number of policy changes that could lead to much greater take up on tech subjects and careers. 22% of schools in England do not offer Computer Science at GCSE – this is something that Tech She Can and its members are lobbying the government to change.

For more information about Tech She Can, visit: