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WISE highlights public sector role for women in STEM

04/12/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

WISE, the campaign for greater gender balance in science, has said the public sector could attract more women into jobs related to science, technology and engineering (STEM).

It has highlighted the issue as it made a called for employers, professional bodies and educators to set a target of achieving 30% of women in core STEM roles, compared with the current rate of 24%.

Helen Woolaston

Helen Woolaston (pictured), chief executive of WISE, said: “Huge numbers of scientists, engineers and IT professionals work in the public sector – often under the radar. From engineers, transport planners and data scientists in local government, to those using AI to transform the NHS and data from space to monitor the impact of climate change; they all play an incredibly important role in building our digital society.

“Given the public sector workforce is majority female, flexible working and similar policies are more widespread than in other sectors, making it an attractive choice for many women with STEM qualifications.”

WISE annually analyses figures from the Office of National Statistics to find how many women are working in the field.

It said the latest round shows that, while there has been progress in science and engineering, the number of women in technology roles is a particular cause for concern with women representing just 16% of IT professionals; a figure that has remained almost static for 10 years.

Case for diversity

It said the business case for greater gender diversity shows that companies are more adaptable, productive and responsive to what their customers are telling them.

Woolaston added: “We know from our members what works, and we are here to help other employers understand what they need to do and help them create action plans, including targets, to improve their workplace culture.

“Directors and board members need to take responsibility and be accountable for creating an inclusive workplace culture and helping their middle management to deliver it. Employers need to be clear; to get ahead in STEM, they need to recruit, retain and develop female talent – failing to do so will mean being left behind.”

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