4 October 2023
by Alex Brinded

STEM professionals are still reporting bias on returning to work

A survey from STEM Returners reveals that those returning to work after a break are still facing recruitment bias against race, age and gender.

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The STEM Returners Index 2023 finds that 24% of women returning to the engineering industry after a career break report recruitment bias, compared to 9% of men.

The survey also finds that for professionals from minority ethnic backgrounds  - who represent 39% of candidates returning to work in 2023 - 34% experience recruitment bias compared to an average of 17%.

There is some good news, however, as the proportion of returners facing bias was 5% less than last year, and 5% less women said they experienced bias than in 2022 as well.

In 2022, 65% of participants found going back to work difficult or very difficult, which has declined to 51% in 2023.

Natalie Desty, Founder and Director of STEM Returners, says, 'For the first year since we launched the STEM Returners Index, we have seen that candidates are finding it slightly easier to return to work than they were this time last year. This is positive news but there are still too many people finding it an uphill battle.

'There are skills gaps across the engineering, tech and green jobs sectors – these gaps are growing, and the UK needs a diverse, agile and innovative STEM workforce more than ever.'

The STEM Returners Index concluded that only 12% of career breakers choose to stop working, with the need to care for others being the primary reason for respondents needing to stop working -  representing 44% of those surveyed. 

Even though 86% of respondents had career breaks of less than five years, 38% said they experienced bias due to a lack of recent experience, which STEM Returners thinks signals that recruiters perceive there to be a deterioration of skills during a career break.

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Alex Brinded

Staff Writer