The UK remains a leader in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines. However, Diversity in STEM statistics reveal that there is still a distinct lack of representation of diverse backgrounds. This inequality in representation poses a number of issues, such as preventing the UK’s STEM industries from driving forward on a global scale.
Despite some strides forward, women remain underrepresented in the STEM workforce, making up just 24% of the labour force. What’s more, BAME workers make up just 8% of the UK’s STEM workforce. These statistics are sobering, to say the least, and highlight that much more work needs to be done.
This article explores everything employers need to know about diversity in STEM, including why it matters and how to tackle the growing disparities in the industry.
What Is Diversity In STEM?
Diversity in STEM refers to the presence of employees from different backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, and disability status. Unfortunately, diversity and inclusion in STEM is lacking compared to other fields. Not only can this impact representation and equity, but it can negatively affect innovation.
As a result, many professionals are calling for STEM employers to do more to address these inequalities, increasing diversity in STEM. This involves ensuring that STEM professionals from underrepresented groups are empowered to actively participate in decision-making. It will also require a multifaceted approach, including education, policy changes, outreach programmes, and a wider cultural shift in the industry.
Why Is There a Lack Of Diversity In STEM?
The answer to this question is a complex one that requires a deep understanding of the historical and systemic issues in the UK, as well as societal influences within the education system and the workplace.
While there is no simplistic way to answer this question, here are some of the factors that have led to a lack of diversity in STEM in the UK.
- Stereotypes: Presumptions and biases surrounding who can succeed in STEM remain strong in our culture. As a result, this can prevent people from disadvantaged or minority backgrounds from applying.
- Socioeconomic factors: The disparity in access to quality education can create a barrier for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. This lack of access to STEM education then results in a lack of diversity in the field.
- Lack of representation: There are currently very few visible leaders from underrepresented groups in STEM. As such, this makes it difficult for certain societal groups to see themselves in STEM careers.
- Unconscious bias: Due to the existing lack of diversity, there may be bias in the recruitment, hiring, and promotion practices in many STEM organisations. As a result, talented candidates from underrepresented groups are being overlooked.
Why Is Diversity In STEM Important?
Addressing the current inequalities in STEM is not just a moral issue. Research shows that diverse organisations perform better in innovation, problem-solving, and connecting with a global audience.
Here are some of the most significant benefits of increasing diversity in STEM.
- Increased innovation: Diverse teams have a broader range of life experiences, perspectives, and ideas to tap into. In turn, this leads to more innovative problem-solving.
- Improved staff retention: Improving diversity in STEM creates a more equitable organisation where individuals from every background feel like they belong. This cultivates a better culture, leading to higher employee retention rates.
- Wider talent pool: Increasing diversity allows organisations to access a broader pool of talent, with unique skills and expertise. As such, STEM businesses can better meet the demands of their customers.
- Better cultural competence: Building a more diverse STEM workforce can help organisations to identify and address deep-seated cultural biases. In doing so, they can ensure that future developments represent the needs of all members of society.
How to Increase Diversity in STEM
Increasing diversity in STEM has become mission critical for many organisations in the UK. But, it requires a multifaceted approach to do this successfully.
Here are some ways to increase diversity as a STEM employer.
- Start with inclusive hiring recruitment: Introducing inclusive hiring practices is one of the first steps in building a diverse workforce. This should include considering factors outside of academic qualifications and other requirements which could exclude certain groups.
- Invest in outreach: Participating in mentorship, scholarship, and educational programmes that encourage underrepresented groups to follow a career in STEM can help encourage diversity.
- Foster a supportive work environment: Cultivate an inclusive and diverse culture by providing relevant training and support. This also includes implementing policies and processes that encourage inclusion at work.
- Provide cultural awareness training: Offering employee education programmes to address discrimination, bias, and inequity in STEM fields can bring awareness to the issue. It can also provide staff with the tools to identify and tackle their own biases.
- Advocate for diverse leadership: Empower diverse employees in your organisation to take on leadership roles. Setting up training and development programmes to encourage underrepresented talent to step into leadership roles will ensure diversity in high-level decision-making.
Becoming A More Diversity-Conscious Employer
Diversity isn’t just good for employee morale. Organisations that invest in building a diverse workforce report increased innovation, problem-solving, decision-making, and productivity. As such, there are plenty of reasons for your business to take measures.
Unfortunately, like many countries, the UK is still lagging behind when it comes to diversity in STEM. As such, companies need to take a more proactive approach when addressing this issue. Nevertheless, following the best practices laid out in this guide is a good starting point.
Are you a STEM employer looking to become more diversity-friendly? Embracing Future Potential can help. Our team of experts can guide your organisation in implementing more inclusive hiring practices and expanding your talent pool.
Get in touch to learn more about our full range of employer services.