Almost half (49 per cent) of UK women have said they wish they had pursued a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields, according to a poll by the Open University (OU).
In response to why they didn’t follow a STEM career path, more than half (56 per cent) of those surveyed said it was due to lack of awareness of the value of STEM related subjects, and lack of knowledge about the career opportunities available.
According to the research women face some of the most significant barriers at school, where they are not properly informed about the STEM sector, and women grow up with the perception that the industry is male-dominated.
The survey also suggested there is an insufficient number of role models for young women to aspire to, finding that nine in ten women cannot identify high profile woman, such as Sheryl Sandberg, working in STEM.
Among women aged 25-34, 60 per cent of them said the education system and industry need to build stronger links and work together to bring more women into STEM.
The research comes ahead of Equal Pay Day on the 10 November. Dr Clem Herman, senior lecturer at the OU’s Department of Computing and Communications said that pay gap between men and women is STEM is mainly due to “structural issues”, particularly the type of jobs men and women undertake, and their working patterns.
He said: “Key contributors to this pay gap include occupational segregation where women and men tend to work in different occupations and sectors, and the jobs in which men work tend to have higher wages with STEM being one of these sectors.
“The other is different working patterns. This is where women are more likely to work part time and the hourly rate for part time jobs is usually lower regardless of the sector.
“Periods of working part time can be interpreted as not being serious about career and women often get passed over for promotion or for career developing opportunities.”
Herman says the pay gap is smaller within STEM sectors compared to others, and women in STEM industries tend to earn more than women in other sectors.
He said: “Many STEM employers are actively trying to recruit more women – they see the benefits of diversity for their profitability, and as a way to fill skills gaps. So it’s a great time to start or get back into working in STEM and may even help to reverse the gender pay gap.”