26 September 2017
Suw Charman-Anderson sets out how the ‘Ada Lovelace Day’ online careers fair can help connect women with employers to help tackle our skills shortage in STEM industries
For nine years Ada Lovelace Day has been an international celebration of the achievement of women in STEM and has worked to inspire girls and young women to pursue a STEM education and to support women in the STEM industries. The next step in that mission is our new online careers fair, which will bring together graduates from the UK’s top universities, early career alumnae and returners with exciting career opportunities.
Diversity is a must-have
Gender diversity, amongst many other types of diversity, is becoming increasingly important to companies in the STEM industries. And not just because it’s ethically the right thing to do, but because diversity improves results and profits.
At the same time, we’re seeing a major skills shortage in several STEM industries. Engineering, IT, software development, physical science, environmental science, medicine and health practitioners are all on the government’s Shortage Occupations List. The Engineer reports, for example, that there is a deficit of 20,000 engineering jobs annually. Martin Barstrow, pro-vice chancellor/director of the Leicester Institute of Space and Earth Observation, told the Westminster Business Forum in April that, “We’ve failed miserably over 15 or 20 years. We’ve got to somehow see this [shortage] as a national crisis and get people to work together on it.”
Yet, women still only make up about 9 percent of engineers, and 27 percent of the digital workforce. And in fields where women dominate at undergraduate level, those gains are not reflected at senior levels. Although 65 percent of early career researchers in the biomedical sciences are women, they account for less than 20 percent of biomedical research professorships.
Squaring the circle
How do we square this circle? The answer may lie in three small nuggets of information:
1. Data from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit shows that whilst women are more likely to be in employment after graduation than men, they are more likely to be low quality employment.
2. The Institution of Civil Engineers’ ‘returnships’ campaign helps people who’ve left engineering, perhaps to start a family or care for elderly relatives, to find a way back into the profession.
3. The Teaching Excellent Framework has encouraged universities to focus more closely on graduate employability.
It is clear that we need to help women into higher quality jobs when they graduate, that universities are motivated to improve graduate employment statistics, and that women returning to work after a career break and, by extension, women early in their career, are too valuable to ignore.
Matching great candidates to great jobs
This is why we are organising what might well be the first online careers fair for women in STEM in the UK on 16 November. We will bring together employers and graduates at the bachelors, masters and doctoral level, plus early career and returners, for what we hope will be valuable and productive conversations about specific job openings across the UK.
We are working with universities and colleges from around the country to reach out to female grads and alumnae, to encourage them to take part in what will surely be the biggest opportunity to find a new job this year. Our fair is supported by UK’s biggest university, The Open University, alongside the University of York, the University of Edinburgh, Loughborough University and many others.
Employers will be able to list jobs and then have one-to-one conversation via video, audio or text with interested candidates. In-person careers fairs can be frustrating, because candidates are not always motivated - they might be looking for freebies, unclear about what jobs you have on offer, or too shy to talk to a recruiter. Online careers fairs don’t rely on freebies for attendance, allow you to link directly to specific job openings, and help shy candidates engage directly with recruiters. And because we’re open to candidates with a range of experiences, not just graduates at the bachelor’s level, employers can list a wider variety of jobs knowing that you’ll reach a wider variety of candidates.
For employers, the advantages of working with us are clear: an online careers fair is cheaper, more flexible, and features a lot more high-quality candidates from a far broader spectrum of universities than any in-person fair could manage. How else could you speak to 100 candidates from as far apart as Aberdeen and Plymouth on one day, and without even having to leave your desk?