Diversity in STEM 5th July is the 1st opportunity to start to make a real difference

As a Careers Consultant, working predominantly with students within the EEC faculty, I constantly hear of the need for more female engineers and scientists and also a more diverse workforce, which can meet the needs of companies grappling with how to develop new methods. So why am I so interested in encouraging minority groups such as women, those who identify as LGBTQIA+ and also those from different ethnic backgrounds and countries to push for a place within this exciting industry. For me, one of the answers lies in what innovative technologies need to bring to the world. With increasing automation looming, those people designing the processes and policies around how new technologies are used, need to understand the wider needs and motivations of a changing society. If we continue to operate from the same traditional perspectives, then the forward thinking that a post-brexit nation needs, may not be realised.

Within my Careers Consultant role I am questioning whether myself and the others I work with can influence the decision making of recruiting companies, and attitudes of students studying key courses and wishing to enter the sector. Delivering empowering one to one advice is essential, although I questions how far does this can can make a difference within the profession. Providing empowering information and resources, highlighting and referring interested students to inspiring and supportive organisations may be another valuable component. The Careers Service is also working directly with employers we work with, to make a difference to the recruitment practices and where possible, encourage recruitment practices which encourage this diverse workforce. The real change I believe with when students and graduates are discussing their worries, attitudes and concerns for entering the profession. The power of students to demand action and really question and get to the heart of what is holding society back is surely key to bringing about real change.

Government energies for providing future skills seem to concentrate on initiatives covering overall education, training, in this article.

There a number of themes identified in how building pride in the diversity agenda, recognising excellence in attracting and retaining high calibre candidates. Their priority around nurturing talents considers learning and development the Civil Service departments can offer. The final strand is around how mentoring and coaching opportunities are established. It is this final component, where I feel employers can make a huge difference, providing inspiration from those that have succeeded in overcoming barriers and prejudice.

Government blog on IDAHOBIT: The Power of a Flag

The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, at less than 10%, while Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30%. Whilst the issues of increasing female representation in STEM is huge, the diversity issues within STEM reach much further. Click here for eye opening fact regarding women in STEM.

The UK needs to significantly increase the number of people with engineering skills. In 2014, one report put the annual shortfall of STEM skills at 40,000.(14) In 2017, the annual shortfall of the right engineering skills is anywhere between 25,500 (level 3) and upto 60000 (over level 4 skills).(1) We need to double, at least, the number of UK based university engineering students.(12) This will not happen without attracting every minority group to participate!

That said, there is a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Systemic problems such as unconscious bias, stereotype confirmation and pay gaps need both addressing, and constant evaluation. As is highlighted, institutions need to tackle systemic problems and not ‘Fall into a tokenistic approach to diversity’ (Ref website above) Students are the key to challenging what takes place, to create the energies to ensure we move beyond simple good gestures.

We are celebrating the achievements of our students at Coventry University who contribute to the agenda of making the workforce more diverse and within this sector, more representative of society as a whole. We aim to establish a community of students that can grasp the agenda and excite employers in coming to Coventry to our diversity discussions, STEM diversity fairs and in evaluating what we are doing well and what more needs to happen.

To Empower the process- it would be fantastic for as many people to complete this anonymous survey, so we can capture the wide range of views for what is needed.

Through good responses we can attract attention to the issues and justify the need for employers and decision makers to do more!

Written by Chris Steventon - Coventry University, Careers Consultant

Graphic created by Ellen Davison - Coventry University, Careers Coach


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