The FemSTEM Coaching project aims to bridge the soft skills gender gap in STEM, by providing women with tools and techniques to develop their confidence and soft skills through a combination of online training and peer-support Coaching Circles™, that are framed around the RRP framework.
There is a significant lack of women in STEM. Globally, women are under-represented in STEM fields due to deep-rooted gender differences and career expectations, rather than a reflection of ability. In the UK, women make up just 14.4% of the STEM workforce. Women Europe-wide are less motivated to study STEM subjects from a young age, due to perceived inequality in the fields (Microsoft, n.d.). Interlinking socio-cultural and economic factors impinge on the quality of girls’ education which impacts their decisions regarding future study and careers in STEM. This results in low levels of female interest and participation in STEM, and high drop-out rates for those that do choose to pursue STEM education.
The large numbers of women who ‘leak’ out of the STEM pipeline as their career progresses has been labelled the ‘Leaky Pipeline’. This leaky pipeline has been the result of the challenges that women face in the Recruitment, Retention and Progression of their careers (RRP framework- WISE Campaign and EQUALITEC project 2001). This has significant economic and social implications for women having to start a new career and negatively impacts the EU economy, affecting levels of unemployment and GDP (gross domestic product).
There is a strong case for diversity in STEM, as it enables organisations to maximise individual opportunity and benefit from diverse workforces that increase levels of productivity and creativity. Furthermore, employing organisations wishing to attract top talent must diversify and adapt to candidates’ needs, as competition for top candidates increases. This project will address gender disparities in STEM, with a focus on those facing a double disadvantage. The lack of diversity in STEM affects all minority groups. Disabled STEM students are 57% less likely to pursue further study than non-disabled students. There are strong links between low socio-economic status and low participation in STEM. Just 0.5% of board members in engineering in the UK are black.
Women in STEM need support at all stages of their career but mainly they need support in building their confidence and soft skills to navigate in a male dominated environment.