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Tags: Scientific, blog

​It’s no secret that women are still largely underrepresented across all fields of science, making up just over 24 percent the UK’s STEM workforce. Although recent years have shown significant progress in diversifying the scientific sector, there is still more work that needs to be done in order to level out the playing field completely.

In this blog, we find out what steps employers can take to empower women within the sector and promote greater female representation in the industry overall.

What the research shows about women in science

The gender divide in science is well documented. According to research published in the International Business Times, women make up just over 24 percent of the UK’s STEM workforce. Although an increasing number of women are enrolling at university, just 30 percent of the world's researchers are women.

According to recent data from the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency, more women than men study subjects specialising in clinical dentistry, clinical medicine, biology, molecular biology, biophysics, biochemistry, genetics and microbiology. But although there may be more women studying full-time degrees across the board, one has to wonder why women remain underrepresented across these occupations.

On a positive note, the gender divide within the scientific sector appears to be steadily narrowing. A 2020 report by WISE – a campaign for gender balance in science, technology and engineering – shows that the percentage of board-level women within the UK’s top STEM companies has increased from 12.5 percent in 2010 to nearly 30 percent in 2020.

Debunking sexism in science

Many experts agree that sexism in science starts at grassroots level, citing gender stereotyping as one of the main problems which prevail well into adulthood and within the professional landscape. A study by Science Magazine and published in the Financial Times shows that gender stereotypes about intellectual brilliance begin early. The research tested 400 children from a range of backgrounds and revealed that, while girls were more likely to associate their gender with getting good grades and working hard, they did not appear to link this to their own intellectual abilities.

Top tips to improve representation of women in science

1. Redefine your recruitment process

One way to minimise gender inequality is through fostering a recruitment process that seeks out diverse candidate pools, engaging in targeted and intentional outreach efforts that attract a diverse range of candidates. As a result, your company will seen as an employer with an inclusive approach to recruitment.

2. Establish and encourage a culture of diversity

Industry leaders must strive to make diversity a strategic priority, and encourage their workforce to actively do their part in achieving this goal. This can be achieved through developing organisational mechanisms for promoting diversity in which success of such efforts can be measured and rewarded. Providing leadership opportunities for women by helping them identify opportunities to progress in their career will also help level the playing field.

3. Provide flexible working opportunities

Flexible working is far more likely to succeed when a role is designed flexibly, rather than just having elements of flexibility squeezed in. However, some organisations still try to take shortcuts, such as expecting a part-time employee to cram a full-time job into fewer days. Job redesign is a good way to implement flexible working into the culture of your workplace. One way to incorporate flexibility into new and existing roles would involve analysing the split between fixed place and fixed time tasks to identify specific elements that could be ‘flexed’ to improve how work is managed, and ultimately enhance work/life balance whilst not compromising service.

Looking to find out how we can support your business in delivering a diverse and inclusive recruitment strategy? Search Scientific can help. Get in touch with our team today.

Hear from our inspiring recruitment role models at Search and further stories from leading women across a range of industries below.

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