We live in an unequal world. Women today still face the fight for gender equality. Gender imbalance is rife within industries across our country, casting a shadow over the vital roles women play in the workplace.
Statistics we have discovered reveal that, despite improvement compared with previous years, there is still a difference in the way women are viewed compared to men in STEM occupations.
In past generations, women stayed at home to look after their family in a domestic house hold environment leaving men to work for the family’s wellbeing. This meant that British opinion of work is traditionally that men carry financial responsibility and women are there to support them. The World Wars changed the way we viewed women’s roles with in society. Men were fighting abroad, leaving job vacancies which women had to fill for the country to function.
This has resulted in women today having a more equal array of opportunities. However, traditional stigmas still influence people’s attitudes to women – even those with highly developed careers.
This is reportedly most evident in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) professions. Latest figures, published by the BBC national news, suggest women in the UK still earn on average 20 per cent less than men. Is there more that can be done to equalise the gender imbalance in today’s industry?
School and universities greatly influence students’ impression of the world, affecting how and where they might progress in the future.
Research, published by the Your Life campaign, found that primary school is promising place for the development of equal gender interests in STEM subjects. A total of 75% of boys and 72% of girls said they had an interest in science. However, when A-Level choices are made, the figures halved with only 32% of boys choosing two STEM related A-levels. The problem was found to be starker for girls: by the time they came to make their A-level choices, only 18% of girls asked chose at least two STEM subjects.
For women in STEM occupations, gender inequality is evidently making it harder for women to progress to the top of their careers.
Liz Bradbury, an employee engineer at Shell Oil Company, said: “You need to look at the how the funnel is filled and the reality is that far fewer girls than boys progress in STEM subjects at school.”
“The problem is that not many girls are studying STEM subjects at college, and fewer are studying Engineering at University.
“In the end it means that the applications received by Companies are likely to be unequal, and this is adding to the imbalance in the workplace.”
Research in 2014 showed that only about half (51%) of female STEM graduates actually went on to work in STEM roles.
Mrs Bradbury also expressed a clear feeling that improvements are being made. “When I was first hired there were only a handful of women who worked in my team. But over the years I’ve seen great progress, and a conscious effort particularly by my company to hire more women who are as equally capable as men.”
Improvements are also being made at the start of children’s education. Michelle Sharp, a science teacher at Truro High School, stated that she believes women’s participation in STEM industries is vital to our country’s development. “Some of the best British engineers are female,” she said. “Dr Rachel Nicholls-Lee is a leading yacht designer, who has inspired many of my students who are interested in STEM subjects.”
Mrs Sharp is part of a scheme within Truro High School which is making efforts to promote enthusiasm for STEM subjects amongst young women.
She expressed a belief that being in an all-girls environment helps young women to expect and demand equality.
The school is promoting events which encourage female involvement in STEM industries, competing in Greenpower car races and involvement in a workshop with the world’s fastest car, Bloodhound.
It is clear that as a society we are making a conscious effort to advance in our journey to equality. New opportunities are being given to school and university students and inequality issues are being unashamedly raised in the workforce, a certain improvement from the past.
However in an age where new ideas are rapidly advancing, the comparable rate at which equality is being gained is too slow.
We need to be aware of this issue so that equality is the norm in future generations: equality will be achieved through the efforts of both genders in the future – so let’s make it happen for our generations – and those yet to come.
Reported by Olivia Leather and Alanah Wickett
BBC School Report