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Women engineers face more recruitment bias

Women engineers face more recruitment bias when returning to work

Despite attention and resources being devoted to the recruitment and retention of women in engineering over the last years, women are still underrepresented in the engineering industry. A recent survey by STEM Returners showed that they are more likely than men to face recruitment bias when trying to return to work.

The annual ‘STEM Returners Index’ surveyed a group of more than 750 STEM professionals on a career break who are attempting to return to work or who have recently returned to work.

Women engineers face more recruitment bias

Released on International Women in Engineering Day, the survey showed 27% of women 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.

An even more worrying finding is that, despite programmes and initiatives being taken up by a number of STEM organisations, the industry remains 92% white and 94% male.

Diverse groups also face obstacles

But women engineers are not the only group that face recruitment bias. Recruitment processes are also working against ethnically diverse groups. The survey found that 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.

“This talented pool of professionals is significantly more diverse than the average STEM organisation, and the solution lies with them. We must re-integrate these highly motivated people back into the STEM sectors to make our industry representative,” STEM Returners say in their report.

Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners, notes: “The UK engineering industry needs to recruit 182,000 engineers annually to keep up with demand – this is not news. But 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. But 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.”


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