How To Make Your STEM Vacancy More Appealing To Female Candidates

How To Make Your STEM Vacancy More Appealing To Female Candidates


It's important that moving forward, businesses in STEM work to attract more female candidates to their available vacancies. Why? Well, women and girls represent half of the world’s population, yet females make up just 24% of the STEM workforce in the UK. If we look at the whole working population, women are also less likely to hold a senior position in the workplace and are generally paid less than their male counterparts. A study in 2019 found that in the UK, the median weekly pay for female full-time employees was £528 compared to £628 for male full-time employees. This study also reported a higher share of males were working as managers, directors or senior officials, with 14% of males in these roles compared to 9% of females.

Gender diversity in the workplace is essential to achieve sustainable development. Furthermore, it is widely reported that advancing women’s equality could drastically boost the UK GDP – something that is urgently required following the uncertainty related to Brexit and the impacts of the global pandemic. These are not new revelations; the majority of people already know the importance of a diverse workforce and the issue of attracting more women into the STEM sectors is certainly a topical subject within the industry.

So what can be done about this? How can we attract more women to apply for roles in sectors that are traditionally male dominated? Having achieved a 27% increase in placing diverse talent, compared to the industry average of just 9%, below we have collated our tips to attract more female candidates to your job vacancy.


  1. Ensure your job description uses gender neutral wording.

Many job descriptions are written with an unintentional gender bias – we often write this way without realising. We find that job descriptions within the STEM sector tend to be masculine-coded, meaning that the description or vacancy advert uses words that are subtly perceived as more masculine (for example head-strong, outspoken, determined) than words that are subtly perceived as more feminine (for example understanding, polite, considerate). Research has shown that using masculine language can put women off applying for jobs completely. Of course, there are many reasons why a woman may not apply for a position, however we can make sure that the job description isn’t one of them by running it through a Gender Decoder such as this one.


  1. Only include qualifications that are absolute must-haves.

A Harvard Business Review study revealed that what held women back from applying for jobs was not a mistaken perception about themselves, but a mistaken perception about the hiring process. Women do not tend to apply for jobs unless they meet 100% of the listed requirements whereas men will apply if they meet 60%. So, review the job requirements, does the candidate really need 10 years of experience? Do they need to be from a specific sector or could transferrable skills be considered? Does the candidate need to be of equal seniority in their current role? Women have generally been given few opportunities to obtain more senior titles, but does their job title really define their capabilities? Review the listed requirements and remove anything that is not absolutely essential or consider ideals, rather than must haves.


  1. Provide and advertise benefits that appeal to women.

When writing a job description, we need to sell the opportunity to potential candidates, and this often means including the company benefits. This is an opportunity to ensure the benefits being advertised appeal to a diverse talent pool. Career progression and job security are common priorities for all, however benefits such as flexible working hours, comprehensive maternity leave programs, childcare salary sacrifice schemes and the opportunity to work from home are likely to be more desirable for women. These types of benefits will also assist with the retention of your current female employees.


  1. Include the salary range for the position.

Gender pay gap is a poignant issue and one of the most talked about topics within the STEM sectors; women and men are increasingly aware that male colleagues may receive a higher salary. So, to put it simply, when a company is transparent with its salary ranges it shows that they are committed to fair and equal pay. In addition, a study by LinkedIn showed that including salary information on a job description is more important to women than men which in turn will result in more female applicants than if the salary is not included.


Final thoughts

The progress towards gender equality is positively advancing, businesses are increasingly working to attract more female candidates to their available roles. However, there is certainly more work to do.  The slight but effective changes we can make to our job advertisements and vacancy specifications will make roles more appealing to women and encourage a more diverse range of applicants. There are many experienced and qualified women across the world with over one million women working in UK based core STEM occupations alone. If your company’s hiring practices do not produce the diverse list of candidates you are looking for, get in touch with Harper Fox Search Partners to find out how we can support your business.

References: Stem Women | House of Commons CBP06838 Women and the EconomyMcKinsey |Linkedin


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