The CareerWise project began in 2013 and is part of Equate Scotland, the national expert organisation on women’s under-representation in STEM. The project works with employers to encourage them to offer positive action, paid summer placements to women students studying STEM subjects. Since inception, the project has worked with a range of employers from internationally recognised brands to SMEs and start-ups, all of whom are eager to take action on gender inequality in their companies and overcome the skills shortages they are finding in these sectors.
According to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 73% of women in Scotland who qualify in a science, engineering, technology or mathematics course do not remain in STEM employment – that is both a loss of talent and a loss of economic potential. Given the majority of the jobs of the future will require some STEM skills, we risk locking women out of the jobs of tomorrow if we do not take action. The action required is both needed in the here and now, by retaining the women studying these subjects and increasing their likelihood of retention and progression, but also to future proof the labour market by increasing the uptake of these subject by girls through real, longer term culture change.
This project is focused on the here and now, engaging women in a STEM career, while they are studying to increase the chances of them staying in these sectors long term and in turn, helping shift mind-sets in male dominated environment. The CareerWise placements offer an opportunity for employers to reflect on bias in their recruitment processes and offers an answer to the too often (and inaccurate) rebuttal to challenging gender equality in STEM “but women just don’t apply”.
1759 women have applied to Careerwise since it started
148 women completed Careerwise placements
40 employers across Scotland have participated
56% of students from the first cohort are still working in STEM (a 28% increase on the retention numbers from 2012).
“What Equate Scotland has done is inspire students like me to make a difference and show girls that there is so much room for them to come into the industry. I don’t fit the stereotype of an engineer which is why I am asked so frequently why I do it. One day hopefully there will be no stereotype. Due to the support from Equate Scotland’s project I am a confident individual and I feel comfortable to speak up in a male dominated environment.” Heather Bruce, 3rd Year Mechanical Engineering Student
We need more STEM employers to actively and strategically take action on the under-representation of women. We need them to challenge and change internal cultures to be more inclusive, and we need more of them to step up and pursue positive action measures like Equate Scotland’s CareerWise project. Only through a majority of employers taking part, will we reach the tipping point of change.