Prospect survey reveals barriers facing women in STEM

Prospect survey reveals barriers facing women in STEM

A large majority of women hoping to return to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) after a career break say they faced significant financial barriers, according to a new survey.

The cost of childcare and inflexible working hours were the main barriers reported by the 5,000 respondents to the survey run by the scientist’s union Prospect, with Talent Retention Solution, Women in Manufacturing and the Women’s Engineering Society.

Other interim headline findings will be revealed by Sue Ferns, Prospect’s head of communications and research, at a TRS event being held on 22 October between 4-6pm on the Pavilion Terrace of the House of Commons.

The union’s 14,000 female members in STEM-related occupations were among those invited to take part in the survey, which sought responses from a range of sources – including universities, networks such as Mumsnet and professional institutions such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The aim was to understand the barriers for women entering or returning to a career in STEM, and what can be done to overcome them.

More than half (52%) of respondents said the cost of childcare was a barrier, while more than one quarter (27%) said the lack of flexible working options  – such as flexitime, job sharing and opportunities for part-time work – was a problem.

Ferns said: “Women in STEM want flexible working opportunities, more accessible career paths, top-up training and mentoring support. These things would actually benefit the whole workforce.

“STEM women are an under-utilised talent pool. Many returners report barriers or say they have no idea how to get their ‘feet back in the door’. Yet we know from existing good practices that removing these barriers is eminently achievable, it is just that the pace of change is nowhere near quick enough.”

For more information about the event, or to discuss the interim findings in more detail, please contact the numbers below.