The STEM leaders have spoken: It's time we acknowledge and tackle the gender pay gap

Published date: June 16, 2022

Since mandatory gender pay gap reporting for large organisations was established in 2017, many industries have achieved huge progress in reducing the gender inequality in STEM when it comes to remuneration. In fact, in 2020 the average pay gap in the UK across all industries fell to 15%. However, women in STEM industries still experience some of the highest pay differentials. For example, a recent study by the Royal Academy of Engineering found that women in the field earned on average 11% less than their male counterparts.

With engineering, tech, and science jobs among the fastest growing in the UK, it’s crucial leaders in the field establish why STEM has such a gender pay problem and what can be done to tackle the problem.

Why is there a gender gap in STEM roles?

Whilst women face fewer barriers to equal pay than ever before, there are some unique factors at play in the STEM industries that contribute to the relatively wide pay gap women experience. These include:

  • The confidence gap Recent research by Stanford University concluded that up to 2% of the pay gap between men and women in STEM could be explained by a gap in self-confidence. Female graduates applying to engineering and computer science roles reported feeling less sure of their skills despite being just as qualified as the male graduates. This lack of confidence can lead to imposter syndrome, female candidates underperforming in interviews, and being less likely to negotiate salaries.
  • Fewer women in senior roles Lack of female representation at senior levels can have a knock-on effect on the gender pay gap. Research has found that at entry levels there is very little difference in the pay of men and women. Meaning that the large gender pay gap is due to the underrepresentation of women at senior, higher-paid roles. Over 53% of female engineers disappear from the professional register after the age of 35 compared to 17% of men. Diversifying leadership can offer much-needed female representation, encourage younger women to take up careers in STEM fields, and encourage them to apply for senior, and more well-paid roles. Female leaders can also act as mentors for women entering the field and give them invaluable advice and support based on their own experience.
  • Women are more likely to have caring responsibilities Gaps in earnings continue to emerge throughout women’s careers. Women are still the most likely to have ongoing caring responsibilities for young children, elderly or disabled relatives. They are more likely to pause their careers to have and raise children, more likely to give up work to undertake caring roles and more likely to work reduced hours and turn down overtime to fulfill those responsibilities.

How to solve the gender pay gap in just 6 steps

Tackling the gender pay gap in STEM is critical for ensuring inclusivity, breaking down barriers and continued business success. Here are six steps STEM leaders can take to help solve the gender pay gap in their companies:

  1. Use your data Producing a pay gap analysis and report is not simply a box-ticking exercise required by the government. You can use that data to discover historical trends in your business around pay bands, promotions and hiring. Once you know how women in your company are faring you can begin to address any imbalances.
  2. Change the way you evaluate skills sets Using a skills-based assessment as part of your hiring process rather than relying solely on interview performance allows you to observe candidates doing the job they will be employed to do. By standardising these tasks, you ensure fairness.
  3. Ensure promotions and pay rises are transparent Women are less likely to negotiate pay. By being transparent about what is required for promotion, if salaries are negotiable and what expected pay ranges should be, you let candidates know what they should reasonably expect and give them the information they need to negotiate.
  4. Seek to improve representation at senior levels When putting together shortlists for senior roles try to have more than one woman represented to increase the chances of women reaching senior positions. Encourage women in senior roles to develop mentoring relationships with junior women in your organisation.
  5. Establish flexible working practices Allow your employees to work as flexibly as possible. This might mean offering remote working or it could mean staggering working hours or offering shared parental leave. Encourage senior managers to model flexible working and encourage both male and female employees to take advantage of the policy. Make sure to advertise this flexibility in your job postings.
  6. Make sure your talent acquisition strategy follows best practice Following best practice during your hiring process can help reduce bias and ensure pay offers are fair and equitable. Avoid asking about a candidate’s prior remuneration and basing pay offers on that information. Instead, offer salaries based on market rates. Establish training for your hiring team on unconscious bias and diversity and inclusion and ensure interview panels and shortlists are representative.

Cooper Lomaz can help you build a recruitment strategy that tackles the gender pay gap in STEM

From putting together an inclusive hiring strategy to supporting and nurturing women in your organisation, building an inclusive STEM business that supports women and encourages diversity is an ongoing process. If you are looking for a recruitment partner that can help you build strong, diverse, and talented teams we can help at every stage.

At Cooper Lomaz, we understand that every business is different, and we can help you build a recruitment process that is tailored to you and that will ensure you find talented candidates that match your requirements as well as your culture and brand personality.

Contact us to discuss your needs or submit a brief.