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Opportunities in Science and Healthcare 2021

Diversity and inclusion have never been so important

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Ruth Blanco

Communications Director, WISE, the campaign for greater gender balance in STEM

We must look at how employers can create diversity and inclusivity in their workplaces.

During the COVID-19 pandemic we have relied on our scientists, technologists and engineers to come up with fast solutions. They have helped to improve health and survival rates, support businesses, organisations and the economy as well as to enable virtual social connection. They are essential contributors, key workers and among them are many, many women.

With research showing that women have lost many of the hard-won gains of the last few decades towards equality in the workplace and home, we must now commit to building greater diversity and inclusion.

Small steps start at the top

To make a real difference, you need a systematic approach applied across the business which is led from the top. Treat it like any other business project, with a nominated board director responsible and accountable for the transformation. Visible commitment by leaders is absolutely critical to making a real and sustained difference.

Understand your starting point and use data such as your gender pay gap reporting to help identify problem areas. Create a practical plan of action that has timelines and targets. We would like to see women represent 30% of STEM roles. This percentage represents a recognised tipping point; once any minority is a third or more of a group, they no longer feel like they are the odd ones out.

Visible commitment by leaders is absolutely critical to making a real and sustained difference.

Recruit, retain, retrain

Review recruitment processes to ensure you are attracting women. Research shows that women are more incentivised to apply for a role where they can see the difference a role makes, so paint a picture that will attract women in your adverts.

Be an employer who supports your existing employees in their career progression. You may well find that you already have the talent you need in your organisation if you offer the opportunity to retrain or to gain experience by working on specific projects.

By introducing retraining programmes, you can widen your talent pool and attract experienced women who have taken a career break and want to return to the workplace.

Make flexible the new normal

The way we work has already changed thanks to the pandemic and now employers are looking at their long-term options. We need to ensure that part-time or flexible working options are available in STEM roles, particularly in senior roles.

Employers need to consider what will work best to ensure that hybrid working, four-day weeks or just greater flexibility works equally well for everyone, with opportunities to capitalise on networking, joint project work and access to different people within the organisation. Whatever solution an employer adopts, it needs to be transparent and on offer to all.

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