More men named John head up top FTSE 100 companies than women… Surely not!

Only 24% of people employed in STEM industries are female. And it’s a similar situation in big business – in fact, there are more men named John leading FTSE 100 firms than there are women! Why is this? And what can we do about it?

How well you do at school gives you an idea of who you are and who you will be as a grown up. High achieving students are more likely to aspire to highly paid jobs, such as those in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). It’s well documented that girls achieve higher overall school grades than boys, so why are there so few women working in STEM?

Looking more closely at the grades, there’s less of a difference between the grades in STEM subjects than in other subject areas – boys do just as well as girls. The worrying thing is that because there are more boys doing well in STEM as compared to other subjects, a gender “stereotype threat” happens. This “threat” of being judged because of a stereotype undermines both performance and aspirations. Basically, it puts girls off pursuing a STEM-related career.

There are so many fabulous female STEM scientists who have totally busted that stereotype threat, but these women still experience a “gender bias” in their working life.  Female scientists applying for jobs have been shown to be rated as less competent, less hireable and were offered a lower starting salary and less career mentoring than their otherwise identical male counterparts. Other studies have shown that female scientists are at a disadvantage in other aspects of an academic career, such as getting funding, publishing and gaining promotions.

What can you, as young scientists of the future, do about it?

  • Find inspiration in female role models – there are loads in our articles and check out the fantastic Modern Muse website
  • Don’t be threatened by stereotypes – there’s no reason why you can’t be different and follow your dreams
  • Attend STEM women events (free for students) and check out companies that invest in exhibiting at STEM Women events – they clearly have the right idea!
  • Join International Women’s Day in their mission of “Balance for Better”
  • “Gender diversity makes business sense” – as a future employee or employer – believe in it, and go for it!
  • In the workplace, find a mentor who shows genuine interest in your development – they will help you through any tricky situations that you may encounter.
  • Take risks and be daring – apply for jobs or funding even though you may fail, if you don’t try, you don’t get!
  • Be aware of unconscious gender bias and take training opportunities that are offered to you in the future
  • Get advice on how to achieve a good work-life balance as this can be off putting in some careers

It seems to us that although gender diversity is improving, there’s still a long way to go in next couple of decades. Starting a debate is one step towards equality for all, so let’s get talking about these issues:

What would encourage you to study STEM subjects?

How would you increase gender diversity in STEM?

Have you been inspired by a female role model?

Are you a female STEM professional who wishes to pass on any top tips?

Let us know in the comments box below!