The STEM Returners Index – Launch of Annual Survey

A new initiative that will track the challenges faced by women returning to work after a career has been launched by STEM Returners.

The STEM Returners programme helps employers recruit, develop and retain the best available talent. Enabling highly qualified and experienced candidates to re-start their career. STEM represents industries in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic fields.

The ‘STEM Returners Index’ is a survey that asked a range of questions to a nationally representative group of more than 750 STEM professionals on a career break. The experiences of these ‘returners’ – who are trying to re-enter the STEM sector – is vital to understand the progress and or challenges experienced by skilled workers wishing to return to their career of choice and what steps industry may need to take to encourage and secure employment for the talent that is available.

Despite programmes being taken up by a number of the more progressive STEM organisations, the industry remains 92% white and 94%, male.

Released on International Women in Engineering Day (23rd June), the survey showed females trying to return to the engineering industry after a career break are more likely to experience recruitment bias than men.

27% of the females who took part in the index said they feel they have personally experienced bias in recruitment processes due to their gender compared to 8% of men, while 30% of women said they feel they have personally experienced bias in recruitment processes due to childcare responsibilities compared to 6% of men.

Both males (39%) and females (43%) said they have personally experienced bias in recruitment processes due to a perceived lack of recent experience.  Recruitment processes are also working against ethnically diverse groups. STEM professionals from black and ethnic minority groups find it more difficult to return to work, with 67% of respondents saying they are finding it difficult, compared to 57% of White British returners.

Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners, said: “The UK engineering industry needs to recruit 182,000 engineers annually to keep up with demand – this is not news,” (the need has been evident for many years). “Despite this very clear and desperate skills shortage, 61% of STEM professionals on a career break are finding the process of attempting to return to work either difficult or very difficult and women are bearing the brunt of this challenge.”

“There is a perception that a career break automatically leads to a deterioration of skills.  The reality is, that many people on a career break keep themselves up to date with their industry, are able to refresh their skills easily when back in work and have developed new transferable skills that would actually benefit their employers.”

The STEM Returners Index 2021 is available to view and download click here

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