Hampshire firm finds race, age and gender bias still poses barriers for those returning to STEM jobs

Young black female engineer planning project With CNC Machinery In Background

By Daniel Face [email protected]

Published: September 25, 2023 | Updated: 23rd September 2023

STEM Returners in Fareham have shared findings that recruitment biases against race, age and gender are continuing to prevent STEM professionals from making a return to the field following a career break.

STEM Returners logoTheir latest survey, STEM Returners Index 2023, found that almost a quarter of women have experienced bias relating to their gender during the recruitment process, compared with just 9 per cent of men.

Both men (29 per cent) and women (25 per cent) have experienced difficulties returning to work due to their age, with 30 per cent saying that their personal confidence has been knocked by recruitment challenges.

Professionals from minority ethnic backgrounds represented 39 per cent of candidates in the survey attempting to return to work, and 34 per cent of those have experienced bias based on their race or ethnicity.

More than 1,000 STEM professionals across the UK were asked to participate in the survey, which began in 2022. Some promising trends have emerged when comparing last year’s responses with the latest round.

Natalie DestyNatalie Desty, Founder of STEM Returners, said: “For the first year since we launched the STEM Returners Index, we’ve seen that candidates are finding it slightly easier to return to work than they were this time last year.

“This is positive news but there are still too many people finding it an uphill battle.

“There are skills gaps across the engineering, tech and green jobs sectors – these gaps are growing, and the UK needs a diverse, agile and innovative STEM workforce more than ever.

“This talented and committed group of professionals are ready to help fill those roles.

“But they’re still facing recruitment bias against their race, age, gender, and a perceived lack of experience.

“Additionally, we’re seeing people who have moved to the UK from overseas are finding it difficult to transfer their international skills and experience to UK positions.

“Industry leaders need to do more to update recruitment practices and challenge unconscious bias to give returners a fair chance to rejoin the industry they’re passionate about.”

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