by Annette Williams, Director, UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology
Half a million women in the UK are qualified in either science, engineering or technology (SET) ? but less than a third work in those sectors, all of which are suffering a severe skills shortage, set to get worse in the coming decades.
This situation is harmful to the UK?s productivity and competitiveness. It undermines aspirations for fairness and opportunity, wastes women?s talent and limits their career aspirations, lifetime earnings and economic contribution. Innovation in the UK suffers because diversity of people brings its own diversity of thinking, new ways to overcome challenges through innovative solutions.
Women will form the major source of increased labour supply over the next decade and should not be held back by workplace culture and practice or through the limited flexible or high-level part-time working options available to them, particularly in the SET sectors where they are highly under represented.
The UKRC for Women in SET works to significantly improve the participation and position of women in these fields in industry, research, academia and public service to benefit future productivity. It is the UK?s leading body providing information and advisory services to employers and organisations in the SET sectors and supporting women entering, returning and progressing in these fields.
Diversity does have a direct impact on company profits. According to the McKinsey and Company report on Large Organisations in Europe, America and Asia 2007, organisational performance increases sharply once a threshold of at least three women on management committees with an average membership of 10 people is reached. Even more importantly, where companies have an influential female presence on the executive committee and more than two women on the board, they outperform their peer companies in terms of return on equity, operating profit and stock price growth. Board diversity is good for innovation.
When added to recent research on flexible working ? four out of five employees say that work-life balance considerations play a crucial role in deciding whether to stay with or leave their current employer with reported increased commitment to the organisation, better retention of staff, improved morale, and reduced absenteeism ? the figures make a powerful business case for diversity in the workplace.
Yet it is still difficult to work part-time or job share in senior roles, so women often have to trade down if they need to balance work and caring responsibilities. The UKRC provides advice on gender equality policy and practice for employers in industry and academia and has a range of products and services to help employers implement change, with accreditation and award schemes to recognise and share best practice. The UKRC also works to help women of all ages into positions of leadership within companies and progress to board level.
For more information, call 01274 436485 or visit www.ukrc4setwomen.org
Added the 01 September 2008 in category Innovation UK Vol4-1