The was one of the interim headline findings to come out of a survey launched last night at the House of Commons.
The survey aimed to uncover what is stopping women entering or returning to STEM careers. It was part of a joint venture between Prospect, with Talent Retention Solution, Women in Manufacturing and the Women’s Engineering Society.
It found that the cost of childcare and inflexible working hours were the main barriers reported by the 5,000 respondents who included Prospect members, universities, networks - such as Mumsnet - and professional institutions such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
More than half (52%) of respondents said the cost of childcare was a barrier, while more than one quarter (27%) said the lack of flexible working options – such as flexitime, job sharing and opportunities for part-time work – was a problem.
Prospect’s director of communications and research Sue Ferns said: “Women in STEM want flexible working opportunities, more accessible career paths, top-up training and mentoring support. These things would actually benefit the whole workforce.
“STEM women are an under-utilised talent pool. Many returners report barriers or say they have no idea how to get their ‘feet back in the door’. Yet we know from existing good practices that removing these barriers is eminently achievable, it is just that the pace of change is nowhere near quick enough.”
Anecdotal evidence from the survey highlighted that even where senior managers supported measures to support women in STEM, an unsympathetic line manager can make the difference between staying or leaving a STEM career, said Ferns.
The event was hosted by Lord Willis of Knaresborough who spoke about the STEM skills shortage facing UK industry.
Other speakers included Nigel Swinnerton, managing director of energy company Saipem Limited, who explained how TRS was created in 2010 to ensure the engineering and science skills among staff leaving the MOD were not lost to the economy.
David Atkinson, head of UK manufacturing at Lloyds Banking Group, spoke of the importance of STEM in underpinning the UK economy and therefore the bank.