How STEM companies can attract a more diverse range of job candidates

Across both the US and the UK, women make up just over one quarter of the STEM workforce. Yet while the momentum is with increased diversity, challenges remain to achieve greater balance.

To explore how STEM companies can attract, recruit, and retain more women, trans, and non-binary people, we consulted senior people working in STEM industries across both geographies. This was supplemented by in-depth interviews with gender experts, decision and policy makers, and other professionals in STEM businesses.

Leaning on our track record of driving progress in this area, we’ve used the results to build a series of recommendations that can drive impactful progress. And we looked at which actions are easiest to implement, and which will make the biggest difference. Here, we look at the first of those challenges: what can STEM companies do to make sure they appeal to a much wider group of candidates?

Companies need to get real

When it comes to attracting the right candidates, many of our interviewees lamented that they don’t get a diverse range of applicants. It’s mostly men who show interest: signing up for newsletters with updates on upcoming opportunities, or visiting stands at career and job fairs.

For women to come through the door, companies need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. They need to have the right policies on flexible working, pay, and inclusivity – then make sure people know about them. Women, trans, and non-binary people are interested in the reality of what’s on offer. According to our results, these are the top three actions STEM companies should take:

  1. Promote and advertise flexible working opportunities
  2. Openly advertise equal and competitive salaries
  3. Demonstrate tangible commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)

So, how can companies make these a reality?

Promote and advertise flexible working opportunities

Having a clear flexible working policy signals that a company’s culture is supportive and inclusive. And flexible working is about more than the ability to work from home. To be most effective, STEM companies need to:

  • Explore a wide range of options, such as job sharing, compressed hours, term-time working, or self-rostering (where employees choose their work schedule)
  • Enable as much personalisation as possible (but not forcing flexibility where it’s not wanted)
  • Showcase and role-model existing arrangements, advertise the willingness to tailor contracts, and talk about this at events.

Openly advertise equal and competitive salaries

It’s generally understood among our interviewees that women and gender-diverse people are less likely to initiate these conversations. There’s still a long way to go here, but it’s clear that employees appreciate honest, up-front information. Being clear about pay can reassure potential applicants that an organisation strives to be equitable. So, it’s important to:

  • Encourage rather than shy away from conversations about pay – invite questions and build confidence in early interactions
  • Recognise candidates will benchmark salaries within the sector and against others
  • Highlight future avenues for salary reviews and be explicit about how the company strives for pay equity.

Demonstrate tangible commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

Respondents say they’re likely to check an employers’ diversity credentials and approach before deciding whether to apply for a job. And they say they can tell the difference between sincere intent and token gestures. That means it makes sense to:

  • Be open about the existing situation and spell out plans to change. Be honest about the numbers – perhaps using a dashboard like HSBC’s, which gives details of the gender balance in various areas of their business
  • Demonstrate openness to change by having a transparent strategy. For example, we worked with The Ocean Race to develop a practical strategy and tools to achieve a fifty-fifty female/male split in competitors by 2030
  • Harness the power of social media to spread DE&I messages, reach diverse candidates, prompt conversations, and create open spaces where candidates can ask questions. Our respondents flagged that any social media communications need to be carefully curated and worded to avoid suggesting a candidate would be a ‘diversity hire’.

The rules of attraction

You can read the full results of our research, which provide a picture of the current state of play, and more detail on all our recommendations in our main report.

Explore more

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