Employers are vital in ensuring the success of women in SET, so these pages are designed to provide you with accessible, high quality information and advisory services which will help you to maximise your investment in and the potential of women in your organisation.
Barriers and Benefits
- 5 reasons why gender inclusiveness should be a corporate priority
- Reduce skills shortages
Britain’s 10 year science strategy intends to raise the level of R&D spending from 1.9% to 2.5% by 2014. For this it needs well trained professional scientists, engineers and technologists to draw on. Women form a largely untapped resource in this respect. Gender inclusive practices will ensure that this resource can be more easily accessed.
- Improve Financial Figures
A Fortune 500 study carried out by Catalyst revealed that companies with the highest representation of women in their top management teams experienced better financial performance than the group of companies with the lowest women’s representation. (Return on Equity was 35.1% higher and Total Return to Shareholders was 34.0% higher).
The recent influx of employee protection, parental rights and working time legislation reinforces the need for organisations to introduce more work-life balance practices and gender inclusive practices.
Innovation is critical to staying ahead. Having women in the innovation team can lead to new markets and innovations which are relevant to and informed by women, and which would otherwise have been missed had women not been involved at this early stage in the product’s life.
- Customer Needs
There is a growing customer pressure to deal with ethical companies which respect individuals needs both within and outside the company, as well as customer demand for a more responsive service.
- Key barriers
Public image/information – A lack of general information and transparency about SET careers means that it often doesn’t feature on the radar for many highly skilled women.
Leaky pipeline – Women who join SET occupations often leave to work in other areas which they feel provide better opportunities.
Juggling work and home – The take up of work-life balance or flexible working practices in the engineering sector is particularly low, and large numbers of women drop out of SET due to inflexibility in working practices.
Organisational Culture – Male-dominated and inherently masculine cultures, where professional women are alone amongst male colleagues, is a key contributor to women leaving SET
Glass ceiling – Although there are some SET professions that women do join in larger numbers, they are still not reaching the top of those professions.
Expertise and services
- Networking and Events
UKRC networking events are targeted specifically at SET employers and take place at venues around the UK. Each event focuses on a different gender equality critical issue and showcases employer good practice:
A few examples of events so far:
- Their first event was part of the launch conference in September 2004.
- Their second event was on 30th November on Work-life balance.
- This was followed by the official opening on 8 March.
- Finding and recruiting your future stars was on 29th June at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, London.
- SETting the Foundations – Monitoring in Science, Engineering and Technology. Thursday 24th November at the Sheffield Hallam University.
- SME’s & Gender Equality. Why bother? April 25th, 2006 at Eureka! in Halifax
- Equal Pay: Changes and Challenges 29th June 2006
UKRC will also take part in specific high profile employer events organised by other organisations. One such event was the Diversity conference, co-hosted by the CBI, the Women & Equality Unit at the DTI and Caspian Events
- Recognition Scheme
In order to truly raise the profile of, and start to effectively address the issues surrounding women in SET, it is crucial that they not only share good practice with each other but also reward those employers who are leading the way for others to follow.
To help achieve this, the UKRC is partnering with a number of existing high profile and prestigious recognition schemes, each with a slightly different focus but all taking into account the groundbreaking work being done by some employers to promote and progress women in the SET sector.
- Advice and Consultancy
Their team of experts can provide practical, tailor-made advice and consultancy on a wide range of subjects. This page provides information on the following:
- Developing a business case for gender equality
- Writing / reviewing policies and procedures
- Recruitment and selection
- Work-Life Balance
- Action Planning
- Equal Pay
- Workplace events for women and girls
“The under-representation of women in science, engineering and technology threatens, above all, their global competitiveness. It is an issue for society, for organisations (as strategy and policy-setting agents), for employers and for the individual.”
(Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE, SET Fair)
Companies who view diversity among employees as a source of richness and strength can help bring a wide range of benefits to the business. The numerous benefits of a diverse workforce are key to achieving optimum success. Anything less risks losing out on creativity and originality of ideas, expensive litigation and poor ethical reputation.
In order to get a healthy return on investment in human capital to maximize competitive advantage, it is crucial for employers to recognise that return on investment is reduced when commitment and productivity are lost because employees feel disregarded, time is wasted with conflicts and misunderstandings and increasing large sums of money are spent on legal fees and settlements.
Policies and Procedures
People are generally acknowledged to be an organisation’s greatest asset so a good, comprehensive and transparent equality/diversity policy transmits a positive message to all existing and potential employees, customers and other stakeholders, by demonstrating that an employer values the contribution, input and welfare of ALL of its employees.
Benefits to employers of having policies in place include:
Avoidance of litigation:
It is now illegal in the UK to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of their gender, age, race, disability, sexual orientation or religion. Employment tribunals in these areas are increasing year on year, bringing with them not only bigger financial settlements but the often irreparable damage that the adverse publicity brings to an employer
Becoming an employer of choice:
An employer’s approach to equality, diversity, social responsibility, etc. is becoming increasingly important to the labour market and statistics show that more people would rather be paid less and work for a company where they can feel valued and proud
Increased customer satisfaction:
More companies are requiring their supply chains to be able to demonstrate their commitment to equality and diversity through contractual clauses and in tendering processes
A more diverse workforce is more representative of an employer’s customer and supplier base, resulting in increased confidence and investment
Improved public image:
Thanks to global communication and the media, society is much more aware than ever before when an organisation gets it wrong, so it pays to get it right
Their advice and consultancy includes:
- Business Benefits
- Anti-Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination Policies and Procedures
- Writing / reviewing and implementing Policies (bespoke or use of templates)
Recruitment and Selection
Although statistics show that girls perform well in science and maths at school, and many choose to go into further and higher education in SET-related subjects, very few choose to enter SET as a long-term career prospect.
- Gender stereotyping – engineering seen as ‘dirty’ / for men only
- Lack of female role models
- Industry image
- Lack of information on career options, salaries, opportunities, etc.
- Male-dominated environment and culture
The benefits to Employers of recruiting more women include:
- Addresses widespread skills shortages
- More diverse skills and experiences, eg. women have more effective communication skills
- Workforce reflecting wider customer base
- Women more likely to stay with employer long-term if treated well, eg. flexible working options, career breaks, returner schemes, etc.
- Reduction in recruitment and training costs
They can provide you with bespoke gender equality training, which will address the specific issues and requirements within your business. Training is available for all levels of staff, including
- Senior and middle management
- HR staff
- Trade Unions
- All employees
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Particular issues in SET include the fast pace of development and change, which means that employers are constantly striving for new skills, innovation and creativity from their workforce. The costs associated with training people at all levels in SET is extremely high, so it is crucial for employers to retain as many trained and qualified people as possible in order to get a return on their investment.
For work-life balance to work, it requires flexibility, co-operation and understanding from all parties and, when it is done successfully, individuals, businesses and society all benefit equally. Remember – flexible working does not necessarily mean working less hours.
The benefits to employers of introducing flexible working include:
- Increased staff productivity
- Improved recruitment and retention
- Lower rates of absenteeism
- Reduced overheads
- Improved customer and shareholder satisfaction
- A more motivated, satisfied and equitable workforce
Their advice and consultancy includes:
- Work-Life Balance Directory of Good Practice
- Legislation – who has a legal right to request flexible working
- How to implement policies
- How to process applications
It is impossible to begin action planning until you have a good understanding of what issues in your organisation need to be addressed. A good place to start is with a culture analysis / staff attitude survey. It is important to set tough goals and targets, but they must also be achievable, to avoid setting yourself up simply to fail. Once your key issues have been identified, they will work with you to develop practical, manageable and measurable steps to implement the necessary changes.