The majority of female students studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects are not tempted by highly-paid City careers, according to a survey published last week. Instead they have set their sights on STEM careers that are directly related to their degrees.
The survey, which was promoted through our targetjobs.co.uk database, revealed that the majority of female STEM students – 62% – were either planning to apply only for jobs directly related to their degrees, or had already done so. Just 8% said they were definitely looking at alternative careers, and the rest were undecided.
Among those who were thinking about other options, the most popular alternative careers were the public sector, charities, management and consulting. Very few mentioned finance, law, accountancy or retail.
The study of 551 female STEM students was carried out by GTI Media Research, the research arm of GTI Media, which is the parent company of targetjobs.co.uk. Chris Phillips, GTI Media’s information and research director, commented, ‘Clearly the major issue here is demographics; there are not enough women studying STEM degrees. But the positive news from this research is that, despite the fact that these women are actively targeted by recruiters from other sectors and who pay more, they are focused on finding work in this area. And they have constructive suggestions about how employers can promote themselves better to women.’
Promoting STEM careers to women
Just over half of those surveyed felt that employers were good at selling themselves to female students, while the remaining 47% felt employers could do more.
The students made a number of recommendations about how employers could promote STEM careers to women:
The most popular suggestion was that employers should be more active in schools to spread the message that STEM careers are exciting for women
- Involve female role models, especially senior ones, in the marketing of jobs
- Involve more females in the selection process
- Give a clearer explanation of what in particular female STEM graduates can bring to teams, projects and the business.
No positive discrimination please!
One student who took part in the survey made the case against positive discrimination as follows: ‘There is a danger of alienating women further by following positive discrimination techniques to encourage women into STEM roles. Techniques need to demonstrate the benefits to everyone of having a more gender-balanced workforce.’
What STEM women want from working life
Only 15% of the students who took part in the survey were worried about joining a predominantly male workplace. A much greater proportion, 35%, were concerned about career progression, particularly about issues such as achieving a work-life balance if they were to start a family, the impact of this on their job security, and the prospect of relocating every few years.
One student who was surveyed commented that female job hunters seeking STEM careers needed to feel valued by employers right from the start. ‘Show female candidates as much appreciation and respect as male candidates receive. Reassure women they will not have to become “men” in order to succeed.’
- Find out more about careers in engineering
- Top female engineers tell students how to succeed in a male-dominated industry
- Research careers in IT
- Top tech women on how female IT graduates can climb the career ladder
- Read a blog post from Chris Phillips on how female STEM students are shunning the City – but what about their male peers?