Why I'm supporting #notjustforboys

Mark Smith | 23 Jun 2015 | Comments

As an early careers recruiter for Atkins part of my role is to make sure we attract the best talent to our company and help the business develop a diverse and representative workforce. With women making up around 50% of the working population in the UK it is important that our career opportunities, many of which require skills in Science, Engineering, Technology and Maths (STEM) are seen as real options for young women.

It is particularly important to increase the profile of these careers as choices to a female audience from a much younger age. As the 2014 admissions data from UCAS, the UK’s universities clearing house, reveals that while women have outnumbered men in admissions for years, men remain over-represented in most STEM subjects, most notably in engineering where there are 20,000 more men than women, and computing science, where there are 17,000 more. (source)

In addition to this a recent piece of research on ‘Developing Female Engineers’ led by senior lecturer and engineer Dr. Haifa Takruri-Rizk at the University of Salford has stated that “many of the women surveyed mentioned that their career adviser at school or college demonstrated a lack of practical knowledge about the [engineering] industry and they had to seek out information on their own.” With a key recommendation being that “it is necessary to publicise what an engineer does and what engineering can be so that children – both boys and girls – can develop an awareness of engineering as a career choice at an early stage.” (source)

So why is the #notjustforboys hashtag important?

Atkins is already recognised as one of the Top 50 Employers for women in 2015, (source) and actively supports the #notjustforboys campaign through press and social media platforms. But why is the hashtag so important?

The hashtag #notjustforboys (source) is a national campaign backed by the UK government, set up to support, inspire and raise awareness of the career options available to women through the sharing of experiences and stories from women across a variety of industries, particularly targeting professions which have historically seen an under-representation of women in the workplace.

With this historical under-representation particularly prevalent in professions which rely on Science, Engineering, Technology and Maths (STEM) skills. The #notjustforboys campaign is shining a light on this issue and aims to get more women into work across many of these industries.

The campaign has highlights that since 2011 women have made impressive gains in STEM sectors with (source):

  • engineering professionals (up 10% since 2011) – 7% working in this area are women
  • graphic designers (up 40% since 2011) – 30% working in this area are women
  • science, engineering and production technicians (up 45% since 2011) – 25% working in this area are women

However it’s clear that even though there has been a positive increase in the number of women choosing careers in STEM related professions, there is a lot of work to do before we will truly have diverse workforce in these professions. In my opinion campaigns like #notjustforboys are essential, it provides a space for not only women but also men to discuss what they love about their jobs and share their real experiences of working in diverse teams across the wide variety of STEM career opportunities out there. It also provides the information to young people interested in our careers that are not getting the knowledge required to make an informed choice from their traditional careers services.

It’s only by changing perceptions and promoting these opportunities as real career choices that we will see more interest from young women. So the more we can do to support incentives like #notjustforboys the more accurately represented and the more popular our opportunities become.