Get more girls into science, Welsh report urges

Apprenticeships can help attract more girls into science-based careers and bridge the gender gap in STEM subjects in Wales.

This is according to a report for the Welsh governmentTalented Women for a Successful Wales – which is published today (8 March) to coincide with International Women’s Day.

The report is aimed at getting more women into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) roles, to address a “critical shortage” that is limiting Wales’s economic development.

Encouraging girls to follow STEM subjects in post-16 education, including through relevant apprenticeships and training, could help attract women into the science and tech workforce. Having more female scientists across the UK could be worth £2bn to the economy, the BBC said.

But society must change its attitude towards the traditionally male-dominated sector, the report found.


Girls have the knowledge

Report co-author Prof Karen Holford, pro-vice chancellor of Cardiff University, added: “Women are outperforming men in education overall yet, still, more of them work in jobs requiring skills below their educational level.

“They are significantly under-represented in the STEM workforce; this is a waste of knowledge and talent.”

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Teachers with more science skills to get girls involved
  • Stronger links between education and businesses
  • More female role models
  • Challenging gender stereotypes
  • “Keeping in touch” strategies for women returning from maternity leave
  • Confronting unconscious bias at selection and career progression
  • Increasing women at all levels in academia, industry and commerce to 50:50 by 2020
  • Removing the gender pay gap.

Lack of representation is a ‘constraint’

Professor Julie Williams, chief scientific adviser to the Welsh government, said: “The lack of women in STEM professions matters for their individual life chances as they are missing out on many well-paid and rewarding jobs.

“More broadly, however, it limits the talent available to our science base and businesses and is therefore a constraint on Wales’s future economic prosperity.”

Williams plans to review the report and formulate a response over the summer.