There are more women in STEM c-suite roles than ever before. This year already, we’ve seen Scottish Engineering appoint its first female President and Vice-President, and ScotRail hire its first woman COO as it transitions to a new public body.

As a consultant who’s been recruiting for the boardrooms of engineering firms for over 30 years, these appointments feel like a particular turning point (although a very late one, and there’s much more work to be done).

In an ideal world, of course it shouldn’t matter that these important positions are occupied by women. But women still only represent 15% of the engineering workforce, and men still far outnumber women in decision-making positions, so it really does matter.

And while change is certainly happening, it’s happening slowly – and it’s not just a problem in STEM industries either. Representation of women in c-suite roles has increased from just 17% in 2015 to 21% in 2021. And today, just 5% of all CEOs are women.

What more women leaders means for business

With the hope that this really does mark a pivotal moment for STEM, I thought I’d take a look at why having more women in leadership roles is so important, and what impact gaining more women in c-suite roles will have on business.

Better diversity – key to closing the skills gap

Talking diversity might seem like stating the obvious here, but it’s worth highlighting that appointing more women in the boardroom doesn’t just mean better representation at the top.

More women in management also has a huge impact on diversity hires throughout the whole company. This is why any business that’s trying to make company-wide changes with regards to diversity should consider starting with the boardroom first.

More women in these top jobs also leads to better roles models for young women getting into STEM, especially those just entering the job market. As I mentioned in a recent blog on the engineering talent shortage, only 24% of STEM graduates are moving into degree-relevant roles after graduating.

Women continue to be extremely underrepresented in STEM and striving to hire more women into top jobs in engineering, cloud computing and data roles should be on every hiring team’s agenda. Making a future look tangible for ambitious women in STEM is key to closing the skills gap.

Higher profits

If you think bringing more women into executive positions at your company would be purely a matter of ethics, there’s a lot of interesting data around that might surprise you.

Did you know that businesses with more women in leadership roles are now proven to perform better and make more money too?

One reputable study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that having 30% or more women in leadership positions adds 6% to net profit margins. For every 10% added to gender diversity, another report by Mckinsey found this added 3.5% to net profits.

Better performance

One reason businesses with more female leaders generate more profit is due to higher levels of innovation.

A study of Fortune 500 businesses found that those companies with women in top management produce 20% more patents. Women CEOs make up just 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies, but those that boast more women in leadership far outperform those in the list that don’t.

To say women-lead businesses outperform male-lead ones wouldn’t be such a radical statement today, but it might’ve been even just a few years ago.

The global response to the pandemic made it glaringly clear that we need more women in decision-making roles, as those countries with female-lead governments coped remarkably better with the crisis.

Better places to work

Every year, Fortune releases a list of the world’s ‘most admired’ companies. Something worth noting about all the companies on the list from this year is that they have almost twice as many women in senior management than less reputable companies.

Companies lead by women aren’t just good for business – they’re good for employees too. Research has shown that organizations with more women leaders have a better workplace environment: There’s more transparency, better communication, and the workplace is more purpose-driven.

And if you have employees who are more engaged, inspired and satisfied as a result, this makes hiring and retaining staff a lot easier.

If all of this isn’t enough food for thought, how about the fact that half of Americans (including 46% of men) would prefer to work for a female CEO?

A sign of good things to come?

With all these statistics in mind, it’s clearly crucial that STEM industries recognise the societal and commercial benefits of promoting women into these important decision-making roles.

Let’s hope that these recent female c-suite appointments for Scottish Engineering and ScotRail are a sign of good things to come across STEM industries more broadly.

If you’re struggling to attract more women to your roles and diversify your organization’s workforce, please get in touch as this is something Lusona can certainly support you with.

Since 2019, Engineers of all classifications have featured heavily on the Government’s Shortage Occupations List (SOL). Essentially, there just aren’t enough skilled Engineers in the UK to meet demand right now.

And while this is good news for candidates – who now have a lot of leverage in this candidate-short market – it presents a recruitment nightmare for employers.

Engineers themselves are feeling the pinch too: A recent survey shows 37% of UK Engineering professionals believe the current skills shortage will have the biggest impact on their sector in the next five years.

With so many different factors contributing to the talent shortage, it can be hard to know how and where it’s possible to make any impact. While the Government continues to look for new ways to tackle the engineering skills shortage, what can you do as an employer? Here are a few ideas to consider…

1. Review your offering

If you’re struggling to attract the people you need, look to your employee compensation: are you offering what the candidate really wants, or what the business feels is fair?

Naturally, the first option employers turn to when they’re struggling to find talent is salary inflation, and this has clearly been the case for the Engineering industry in recent years. There’s been an average 10% salary increase for UK engineers in 2021 alone.

But money isn’t everything – employees want more than this. What employee benefits can you offer to attract great engineers? 9 in 10 workers say they want flexibility in their next role. While it’s true that flexible working isn’t the easiest option to offer in an industry like engineering, it’s not impossible.

Have a think about how you could make flexibility work at your organisation. The option of working just one day a week from home could make your roles much more attractive to candidates than what your competitors are currently offering.

2. Train candidates to retain them

A combination of Brexit and Covid-19 have lead to the Great Resignation shaking up hiring in almost every industry; 69% of employees say they’re ready to move jobs. What are you doing to change their minds?

Offering a clear career path and internal development opportunities will not only make your roles more appealing to new candidates, but reduce attrition amongst your existing employees substantially. As much as 82% of employees say they’d quit their job because of a lack of career progression available to them.

So what can you do to ensure your engineers experience a sense of progression inside your organisation? Remember that development doesn’t always need to involve promotion if your internal structure can’t accommodate this. Development can also mean training in new skills that satisfy your employees’ need for learning and self-development, even if there’s no promotion at the end of it.

3. Consider how you appeal to young graduates

Research has shown that although the number of undergraduates entering STEM programs is increasing, only 24% of recent STEM graduates are moving into engineering roles six months after graduating. Instead, these candidates are taking up employment in areas like management or teaching.

What is your organisation doing to appeal to younger candidates and to recruit graduates for entry-level roles?

Engineering is perceived by many younger workers as old fashioned and lacking diversity. Men still outnumber women 8 to 1 in engineering roles, while BAME men are 28% less likely to work in STEM. Research has also shown that 29% of LGBTQ candidates also say they’d avoid a career in STEM for fear of discrimination.

Failing to appeal to young graduates presents a problem: A large number of skilled engineers are predicted to retire from the industry in the next few years (for example, 70% of the current nuclear engineering workforce will be retired by 2025). Therefore, bridging the skills gap at graduate level is key to overcoming the talent shortage now and in the coming years.

4. Move quickly

When you’re competing with many other businesses for skilled engineers in a talent shortage, every minute counts. How can you streamline your hiring process so you’re able to make faster job offers before your competitors do?

For example, could you streamline the interview process so it involves two stages instead of three? Or could you give your recruitment partner more responsibility in managing the initial interview stages so your time is only required when choosing candidates from a final shortlist?

Work closely with your recruitment partner to establish ways you can make the recruitment process tighter and more efficient. This might involve prioritising hiring over certain areas of the business at times, but this will work to your advantage in the long run. If you’re not able to react quickly, you’ll leave yourself vulnerable to counter offers from competitors and current employers too. 

5. Only work with reputable recruitment agencies

For engineering candidates, the only downside of being in such short supply is that they will be getting bombarded daily with comms from desperate recruiters. This happens because employers will leave roles open for any recruiter to fill on a first-come-first-serve contingency basis. This kind of recruitment is counter-productive and is what gives the industry a bad name.

Working exclusively with a reputable recruitment partner will ensure your organisation is represented by professional recruiters you can trust. Reputation is everything, and any candidate who is bothered daily by unprofessional recruiters will likely turn the role down even if it’s the perfect opportunity for them.

Lusona is a recruitment brand that is well known and respected in the UK engineering sector. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you address talent shortages at your organisations, please get in touch.

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