Returning to STEM: interventions to support women returners after career breaks

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Published on 12th April 2017

Dr Clem Herman, Dr Elaine Thomas and Dr Katie Chicot (OU)

The ratio of male to females employed in STEM-related industries in NI is 3 to 1, yet although the business case for gender equality in STEM has been well recognised in NI policy, little attention has been paid to date to the potential presented by women returning from career breaks. The persistence of normative gendered career pathways and gendered organisational cultures in STEM sectors present barriers to those who have non-linear or unconventional career trajectories. In this presentation we will showcase two new resources launched last year by The Open University (OU) – Reboot Your STEM Career and Returning to STEM – the latest in a succession of interventions by the OU to encourage and support women in their STEM careers. The resources were developed following a longitudinal research project that tracked women’s career progression over a five-year period and identified five key success strategies for returning to STEM work (foot in the door, networking, back to basics, retraining and helping hand). Case studies highlighted in the resources can be used by NI policy-makers to support women resuming and progressing their careers and interviews with STEM employers illustrate the benefits to companies of developing internships specifically aimed at returners.

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