Addressing the gender pay gap

With news of the UK’s gender pay gap hitting the headlines, companies across the country are looking closely at how they treat women in the workforce. HR practices are, or should be, coming under scrutiny so that the right changes can be made to ensure that women are treated and paid fairly.

The UK’s Equality Act 2010 provides a legal framework within which businesses must work, but it does not and cannot cover the societal, cultural and psychological factors which influence how women are treated. Indeed, our understanding of these factors is still developing, and so the solutions we need to put in place are constantly evolving. For example, studies have shown that implicit bias training can backfire, making people believe that, because they’ve had training to reduce their unconscious biases, nothing they do going forward could be biased, which then leads to more biased behaviour.

Rather than prioritising an attempt to alter people’s subconscious attitudes, which at best is a long-term challenge, it is easier and more productive to begin by altering business processes and standards, to ‘bake in’ fairness and awareness. Changing behaviours in this way is also more long-lasting — staff come and go, and new staff need training, but good business processes persist regardless of staff turnover.

There are many places where an examination of business practices can yield results, but our recent work on our online jobs fair for women in STEM has revealed that there are a number of relatively simple ways to significantly improve recruitment, retention and promotion of women. From changing the language and imagery used in job ads and marketing, to enacting flexible and fractional working, to restructuring promotion pipelines, small changes add up to big effects.

If you would like help assessing your existing marketing materials and internal HR processes, then you can now engage Ada Lovelace Day founder, Suw Charman-Anderson to work remotely or in person. If you’d like to know more, just drop us a line.   


Nominate women in STEM for an Honour

We are delighted to see several women in STEM getting recognition in the 2018 New Year Honours List for their dedication and achievements.

Credit: Anne-Katrin Purkiss

Helen Sharman OBE was made Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George, Professor Pratibha Laxman Gai was made a Dame for services to chemical sciences and technology, and CBEs were awarded to Professor Caroline Dive, deputy director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, statistical epidemiologist Christl Donnelly, and engineer Professor Karen Holford, deputy vice chancellor of Cardiff University.

However, only 3 per cent of the awards went to science and technology recipients, and by our count, less than half of those went to women. Engineering was particularly poorly represented, and no one was honoured specifically for services to mathematics.

Since we know that there are plenty of excellent women doing fantastic work in STEM, we want to encourage you to nominate more women for future honours.

Credit: Intel Free Press/Isabelle Saldana

Honours are awarded to people who have made “life better for other people” or are “outstanding at what they do”. This cover activities and achievements like volunteering, making a difference to a community or area of work, innovation and improving lives for others. As well as detailing the reasons for your nomination, you should include all relevant work and volunteering they do, as well as awards they’ve received.

The Cabinet Office has helpfully provided a guide on how to write a nomination, with suggestions on the sorts of words and phrases that can help, as well as persuasive example paragraphs from previous nominations. Additionally, you should submit two supporting letters by people who know the nominee personally.

The application can include various types of evidence, such as articles about their work and photographs, to support your nomination. It can be completed online or you can print off a form and post it to them. Do note that the process differs if the person nominated lives or works outside of the UK.

There are no deadlines for submitting a nomination for an honour, but expect the process to take 12-18 months, due to the work required in considering and assessing each application. Additionally, the committee chooses the honour, so you cannot nominate for a particular award.

We hope that this inspires you to think about the women you know and put them forward for an honour!

How does an online careers fair work for Employers?

The Finding Ada Online Careers for Women in STEM is a fabulous opportunity for employers and recruiters to talk to candidates from across the UK about graduate, early careers and returnship positions.

With the support of nearly 20 universities, including the UK’s biggest, the Open University, alongside three out of the four oldest – Oxford, St Andrews and Glasgow – employers will have access to candidates from the length and breadth of the country. We’re also recruiting early career and returning candidates from our extensive online community, and via partner organisations such as The IET.

This is the first online careers fair for women in STEM in the UK, and employers should get in early to make sure you reach this much sought after pool of the best and brightest candidates.

How does an online careers fair work?

Rather like an in-person careers fair, the event runs over a single day, from 9am until 5pm on Thursday, 1 February 2018. Candidates will request a conversation with the employers that interest them, and the system will match you up when both your recruiter and the candidate are free.

Conversations are video by default, but can be audio or text if the candidate doesn’t have enough bandwidth. You will then be able to follow up with the candidate if you want to take the conversation further.

If you want to take a look before you commit, there will be a free webinar hosted by GoIntro’s Jess Menzies to introduce the tool on Friday 27 October from 3pm to 3.30pm.

The webinar will be held using BlueJeans, which you can use either via their app or directly in your browser. To use the app, visit and click “Get The BlueJeans App” at the top right of the screen. To use your browser, follow these instructions.

To join the webinar, visit at 3pm on 27 Oct.

Be a part of our fair

All employers and recruiters who hire a booth get 3 seats and unlimited job listings as standard, priced very competitively. As the fair is online, it is significantly cheaper than an in-person fair, with no costs for travel, hotel, or printed materials. And as you can engage with the fair from your desk, you have huge flexibility to multitask.

The online fair also allows you to talk to candidates from across the UK, all in one day, giving you a far broader reach than any in-person fair could possibly achieve! And because we’re targeting grads at bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, as well as early career job hunters and returners, you can list a far broader variety of jobs than fairs that only focus on bachelor’s graduates.

If you would like to participate in our online careers fair, email Suw Charman-Anderson now for more information.

Take a look now!

You can visit our careers fair website now, and you can see how it works in the animation below.

Peterborough STEM Festival

PeterboroughSTEMFest2016_IMG_9294_webOur friends Digital People in Peterborough (DPiP), in partnership with Allia Future Business Centre, are once again running Peterborough STEM Festival for 2017. The event is an opportunity to promote digital careers and science, technology, engineering and maths to young people.

Inspired by Ada Lovelace Day, they would like to particularly encourage those less represented in STEM, like girls, women and other social community groups. It is both family-oriented and free to attend.

PeterboroughSTEMFest2016_IMG_9332_webThe festival itself incorporates both a school’s day on Friday 29 September 2017, for STEM workshops and challenges, and a festival on Sunday 1 October, with demonstrations, activities and talks from STEM professionals.

Peterborough STEM Festival is dependent entirely on sponsors and volunteers, and they are looking for companies and businesses, particularly those in the Peterborough and Cambridgeshire area to help them with funding. It would be a great way to contribute to the local community, and they have a range of sponsorship packages available.

Has the leaky pipeline been fixed?

Guest post by Sarah Hearne

The ‘leaky pipeline’ is a familiar metaphor to those interested in discussions of women in STEM. The pipeline – the process of going from school to undergraduate level and on into academia until reaching professorship – is seen to leak people, particularly women and minorities, at each successive rung of the academic ladder. Despite its ubiquity, there are growing concerns that the leaky pipeline metaphor is harmful and inaccurate.

A recent paper by David Miller and Jonathan Wai suggests that the pipeline is no longer leaking. The paper examined the percentage of students who go from undergraduate level to PhD level using retrospective analyses of data from US citizens. The data itself seems sound, as do the analyses, but I am concerned about the conclusions drawn.  The authors found that while women, in general, used to be awarded PhDs at a lower rate than their male undergraduate counterparts, this is no longer the case: the sexes have converged. This means that male and female undergraduates are equally likely to continue their academic studies. Wonderful news! The pipeline has been fixed!

Well, not so fast. The paper has examined a very particular point in the academic career: the transition from the undergraduate level where a student is really trying to gauge their level of interest in a subject while putting off the whole ‘find a job’ thing for a few years, to the postgraduate level where they feel they may have some real interest and aptitude for their chosen field and would like to pursue it further (and maybe put off that whole ‘find a job’ thing for a few more years!). While obviously it is great to know that women are no longer systematically biased against when it comes to being accepted for PhDs, that step is only one on the long route to becoming a fully fledged academic. And, as the authors point out:

“…the pipeline metaphor may be an apt description of academic transitions after the Ph.D. Academic pathways are considerably more rigid after the Ph.D. degree than before the bachelor’s degree.” [p8]

The paper is cautious and focused in its conclusions, which is as scientific research should be. However, from an online article written by one of the co-authors, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the leaky pipeline metaphor was now dead:

“…new research of which I am the coauthor shows this pervasive leaky pipeline metaphor is wrong for nearly all postsecondary pathways in science and engineering.”

The paper, however, does not say that, and the data doesn’t support such an assertion. It’s bad enough when press officers overhype research due a lack of understanding of the work, but to see an actual author misrepresent their research is extremely disappointing.

So, as much as we might wish it to be true, this paper doesn’t support the idea that the leaky pipeline has been completely sealed. But what about its use as a metaphor? Well, there are two sides to any metaphor: those of accuracy and utility. It appears that despite some areas where cautious optimism may be applied, as shown above, the metaphor is still largely accurate. But is it useful?

The main problem with the metaphor is that it implies that the leak needs to be fixed. Yet the pipeline must leak. In the UK alone there were 98,000 students accepted onto STEM course in 2013. There aren’t enough academic positions for all those students to be employed, and the country would be significantly worse off if all those students decided to work in academia rather than take their skills to other employment sectors where they would make a beneficial contribution.

Specifically in the context of women in STEM, there are concerns that the leaky pipeline metaphor is harming the discussion. That by saying that every woman who leaves academic STEM is a loss, a great deal of internalised pressure is placed on women to pursue careers they are unhappy with and it creates a feeling a failure when they decide to follow a different career path. As Andrew Penner points out, by referring to the leaky pipeline:

“we risk trivializing the contributions of women and men who choose to pursue other endeavors when we define success as becoming a STEM professor at a research university“.

Matthew Cannady and colleagues recently examined the way in which the ‘leaky pipeline’ metaphor fails. They explain that:

“. . . a metaphor positing that those who “leak out,” presumably into a drain, are lost to STEM fails to recognize that there are careers that may not require a STEM bachelor’s degree but do require STEM knowledge and skills and contribute to the public good. The fact that the pipeline metaphor does little to illuminate the paths of mathematics or science educators, or scientifically literate citizens, further challenges its usefulness.” [pp446]

The metaphor, while sadly accurate, appears to be more of a hindrance than a help when trying to discuss and improve women’s representation in academic science. It may be time to find a new metaphor, one that properly appreciates that there are many career choices that allow women, and men, to make use of their scientific training. However, it remains a fact that women are still being excluded from the higher echelons of academia, and whilst that remains true we will all lose out.