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Women returning to a career in engineering, science or tech


Kirsten Bodley


Two of the biggest challenges facing STEM are: the widening skills gap and the lack of positive progress in diversity. Addressing the second will support the first.

The skills gap in STEM is from entry to senior levels. There is also a leaky pipeline – especially for women in technical roles across all levels. This is especially the case in mid-career where people, mainly women, take career breaks.

Addressing the career break penalty for female engineers, scientists and technologists can deliver significant economic benefits to the engineering and allied sectors by filling positions in the skills gap areas.

Getting more senior women back in to the workplace will also help businesses build stronger pipelines of female leaders and improve diversity at senior levels.

What’s stopping women returning to their jobs in STEM?

One of the main barriers for those wishing to return to STEM after a career break is the perception of recruiters and recruiting managers that a CV gap leads to a deterioration of skills. This means that returners’ CVs will often not be progressed through standard recruitment channels.

Recruiters perceive that a CV gap leads to a deterioration of skills.

This is a waste of talented and skilled resources and often leads to STEM returners working below their capability, which has long term implications for the STEM pipeline. Providing those on career breaks with a supported route to return makes good business sense.

In partnership with IMarEST, WES has developed a programme for STEM Returners to help employers recruit, develop and retain the best available talent, and to enable qualified and experienced candidates to re-start their career. It aims to redress the gender imbalance within STEM. 

The STEM Returners programme will facilitate paid short-term employment placements for career break returners with career coaching, networking and mentoring alongside. Candidates will also have the opportunity to restart their career in a permanent position at the end of the programme.

photo credit: WES

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