Forward Ladies, the UK’s largest business support network for women, this week announced the results of its second annual national survey, in the launch of “Bridging the Gender Gap in STEM” 2018 report.

The comprehensive study sponsored by GKN Aerospace, NG Bailey, Ada the National College for Digital Skills, BASF, United Utilities and Yorkshire Water; was developed to gain insight into the experiences of women working within the STEM sector across the UK and around the world.

The study is part of an annual programme to amplify the voices of women within the STEM sector worldwide.

Conducted online, the survey ran from June to October 2018 and received responses from 1,653 participants working in STEM. Respondents included both men and women, working throughout the UK and beyond, at various stages of their STEM careers.

This year, the report also includes a STEM for Juniors insert, a version of the findings and interviews aimed at 8-14 year olds. With a quiz and a ‘What is STEM?’ section, the insert aims to spark an interest in STEM subjects, to inspire the next STEM generation.

Focusing on the attraction and retention of women in STEM, the report highlights a severe lack of early engagement with those considering a career in STEM; with external STEM ambassadors inspiring only 2-3 percent of participants, irrespective of their backgrounds. It found that women are over-mentored and under-sponsored, with only 4 percent of participants having been sponsored in the last two years.

Griselda Togobo, CEO of Forward Ladies, said: “It is well documented that most women face unfair challenges in the workplace and the STEM sector is no different in that sense. What is alarming, however, is the lack of progress over the past decade - despite the numerous initiatives in place to encourage more girls to pursue STEM subjects - the increasing exodus of women out of the sector is still present.”

She continued: “With women making up just 14.4 per cent of the STEM workforce, it is no surprise that biases persist, especially in industries where the gender split is unbalanced.”

“We need to create a strong pipeline of female leaders for the future, in order to do this, we need to tackle stereotypes on a daily basis.”

STEM report key findings:

  • The missing voices of women working in STEM must be heard. Our independent research went to the women themselves, from all walks of life and backgrounds, to ensure that their voices were represented and the issues they are facing are being communicated to employers.
  • Pay gaps need to be addressed. The pay gap between white women and women of other ethnic backgrounds is quite significant.
  • Variety and opportunity are two key payoffs of a STEM career.
  • STEM apprenticeships are excellent and available. There is an opportunity to use the apprentice levy to recruit more apprentices.
  • Recruitment of returners is essential to plug the impending skills gap. Returner programmes should be ramped up to get more women who have left the profession to re-enter.
  • Diversity roadmap tool. We have created a diversity roadmap that organisations can use to benchmark themselves against for diversity and inclusion, to determine the next steps they need to take to progress.

A full version of the report, including STEM for Juniors, can be downloaded at

Natalie Wilkinson, Head of Responsibility at NG Bailey said: “NG Bailey is delighted to partner with Forward ladies this year and contribute to their 2018 Bridging the Gender Gap in STEM report. As one of the UK’s leading independent engineering and services businesses, we recognise the challenges within our industry and are working to address them. We know our industry is facing a skills shortage and therefore attracting, recruiting and retaining diverse talent is more important than ever.

“The report provides a wealth of intelligence and data that will enable organisations like ours to understand where we can positively make changes to reduce the gender gap.”

A STEM report roundtable hosted by Forward Ladies took place on Monday 26 November 2018, held at the HQ of NG Bailey, one of our sponsoring partners. This was a formal launch event to discuss the findings of the report, gain personal insights on the challenges being faced by STEM employers in bridging the gender gap and also identify best practice to increase diversity with the sector.