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Study shows how to encourage women into STEM

Published: 15 March 2019 at 10:30

Female biochemist

Research finds the word “innovation” does not inspire women into careers

A study conducted by Anglia Ruskin University researchers has uncovered why and how more women can be encouraged to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers.  
A team of female researchers at Anglia Ruskin examined the factors both facilitating and impeding the success of women in STEM careers. The team carried out 50 interviews with women from 28 different companies, and developed a large-scale (1,202 responses) online survey distributed to a panel of respondents working in STEM roles, across multiple sectors nationally.
The research team found through interviews that the word “innovation” does not inspire women to get involved in STEM careers. This was confirmed by the survey findings, where only 4.7% considered themselves to be innovators while, paradoxically, 86.4% agreed they were involved in innovation.
The project also recommended some ways to reframe the language around connecting women’s interests to STEM careers. “Making a difference”, “problem-solving”, and “simplifying the complex” are three key expressions that respondents identified as igniting their interest in STEM.
For employers, the report states that providing an inclusive culture which encourages innovation from all employees is crucial to encourage more participation in STEM, as well as providing further opportunities for reskilling and development. 

Although companies with higher diversity do better in innovation and improve their financial performance, women remain underrepresented in these innovation-focused roles and activities.
Professor Lynn Martin, who led the Anglia Ruskin team from its Faculty of Business and Law, said:

“There is a significant gap in support for women who do not feel accepted by their colleagues, and employers must also be aware of the importance of flexible career paths and influential opportunities to encourage more female innovators.

“I hope that our project can shed some light on the reasons why too few women are innovators in STEM roles currently, and provide solutions which will encourage more women to begin these careers in the future.”

The report was funded by Amazon and produced in partnership with WISE – the campaign for gender balance in science, technology and engineering.