Why have 22 science, technology and engineering employers written to the Prime Minister with a public commitment to improve the retention and progression of women?
Allan Cook, Chairman of Atkins, who led the campaign as chair of the Diversity Leadership Group for the Royal Academy of Engineering, explains why this is a business imperative:
“UK industry needs to recruit, retain and inspire the best talent available to build and retain a competitive position in the STEM business sector. As long as women represent such a small proportion of our workforce, especially at senior levels, we know that we are missing out on a rich pool of talent. It is widely recognised that a diverse workforce offers real advantages in terms of increased innovation and effectiveness. “
Although the business case which Allan outlines is widely recognised, women are still few and far between in the leadership teams of big business, particularly in manufacturing environments. Talented women with relevant experience are in great demand, which means they can afford to pick and choose where they want to work.
Forward-thinking companies recognise that they need to up their game if they want to attract and retain talented women. WISE asked our corporate partners to tell us what has made the most difference to women in their organisation. The Ten steps is a distillation of what works. As with any organisational change, the first step is to know where you are now and where you want to be, in order to monitor progress. Step two is about making your leaders accountable and step three is a commitment to tackling bias and sexism, wherever and whenever it occurs.
The final step is about collaboration. If we lose one talented woman from science, technology and engineering her employer loses out, but so does the industry as a whole. The reverse is also true – every woman who is supported to do her best work and thrive will help to change the culture and image of science and technology industries. More girls and women will be inspired to work in science, technology and engineering when they see women in leadership positions in these sectors.
Shell UK, winners of the WISE Employer Award 2014 has introduced mandatory reporting on diversity targets in managers’ appraisals. The representation of women is better than average for the sector — 18% of technical roles are filled by women and 15% of executive positions in the company. Trui Hebbelinck, Vice President Human Resources UK, Ireland, Nordics, South Africa, Shell, says:
“We are so happy with our win — this a real recognition for our support and progress made in our STEM representation, a huge inspiration to aim higher.”
UK Chairman Erik Bonino is a signatory to the Ten steps, along with other WISE corporate members Airbus, Atkins, Babcock, BAE Systems, Capgemini, Jaguar Land Rover, Network Rail, Nissan, Rolls-Royce and Thales. Other companies can follow suit if they want to reap the benefits in their business. Diversity of talent provides diversity of thought and diversity of thought makes for great business.
Helen Wollaston is Director of the WISE campaign