Week 4: Women in SET – that’s me (I)

Make a list of the strategies aimed at attracting women back into the workforce suggested by the Government response to the Greenfield Report and in the Conclusions and Recommendations section of the Maximising Returns report.

The strategy implemented by the Government is detailed in a previous post.

The Maximising Returns report suggests the following:

Overall “…a key issue is the extent to which SET employers can change their working practices to accommodate work-life balance practices for the five to ten years when employees’ children are young.”

More specifically:

  1. Government should intervene to provide both industry- and academic-focussed approaches to facilitate the return of women to SET. These schemes should provide technical training and reskilling as well as funding for specific research posts via the relevant research councils. Any scheme should be flexible, and promoted both nationally and locally so as to reach the maximum possible number of potential beneficiaries. Some sort of monitoring scheme should be built in, and best practice should be identified and incorporated at all stages.
  2. In industry, line managers should be made aware of the business case for flexibility and diversity in the workforce. Current opportunities in SET, particularly non-traditional careers, should be more widely publicised in an effort to attract and retain more SET graduates (not just returners). All involved should be made aware of the negative impact of stereotyping by gender.
  3. Schemes aimed at returners should do more to match returners with potential employers and should provide returners with access to a database of likely employers.
  4. Consideration should be given to the provision of Government funds to academic laboratories for the recruitment of a ‘head of laboratory’ which could be part-time. This position would allow the returner to bring their skills and knowledge up to date over a fixed-term (3 – 5 year) appointment, and would provide for a steady flow of returners as each one moved on to a more permanent post.
  5. Grant conditions should be reviewed in order to eliminate unintentional discrimination e.g. those designed to help at the start of a career are often age-limited and would therefore exclude someone who had taken a career break.
  6. Unions and other professional organisations should provide support to individuals who are seeking to change working practice to accommodate specific work-life balance issues. This is particularly relevant if a sector is seen to be slow in adopting modern work-life balance practices.
  7. Small and medium-sized enterprises will require specialist help which could be provided by business support intermediaries (presumably this is Business Gateway and similar) in terms of identifying local skills requirements and publicising local opportunities.

Interestingly, according to this report I am not considered likely to return to SET. They define a likely returner as:

…a person with a first degree in a SET subject who had begun a career in a SET occupation but who was not currently using their qualifications and experience in the labour market and who would consider returning to a SET occupation.

Ah well, someone else to prove wrong!

Which of these strategies do you think are relevant to you?

Of the Government proposals, I am currently benefiting from the establishment of the Resource Centre, and from the provision of funds for the OU course aimed at women returners. I do feel that these should be more widely publicised, perhaps during all SET degree and postgraduate courses, so that if women do take a career break they are aware of the options available to them.

Having access to a list of potential employers, or even a list of employers who are known to be less hide-bound than is the norm in SET, would be a help.



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