New Schemes to Help Close Gender Pay Gap and Support Women in STEM Roles

16 March 2022 by Chloë Hunt
blog author

Two new initiatives to improve and generate more employment opportunities for women have been launched by the Minister for Women.

Baroness Stedman-Scott unveiled plans for the enterprises yesterday to coincide with International Women’s Day in a bid to level up employment opportunities for women.

One initiative is a pilot scheme to attract more women to job adverts by improving pay transparency in the application process and urging participating employers to stop asking about salary history during the recruitment process.

According to research, listing a salary range within a job advert and refraining from requesting salary history disclosure will help women negotiate pay on a fairer basis and could in turn help tackle pay inequality.

The second initiative is a new returners programme launched by the Government to help women return to STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths) careers. 

Evidence shows (from research and employee feedback) that returning to STEM roles after taking time out to care for loved ones can present significant challenges. The new scheme will support organisations in recruiting and retaining talented staff who are often overlooked because of a gap on their CV. The programme aims to provide training, development and employment support to those who have taken time out for caring.

Baroness Stedman-Scott, Minister for Women, said: “The UK can only grasp its full potential by championing its brightest and best, and ensuring everyone, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to succeed.

“We believe that increased pay transparency will build on positive evidence of the role information can play when it comes to empowering women in the workplace. It is essential that we keep women at the forefront of the levelling up agenda as we recover from the pandemic and rebuild together.

“Our second announcement, supporting skilled women to return to STEM careers aftercare leave, will keep talented minds in STEM and improve the representation of women and marginalised communities in those incredibly important roles.”

Job seekers place a strong emphasis on salary when looking for their next career move, according to international data from a Glassdoor survey. It noted 68 per cent of people admitted that salary was the most important factor of a job advert showing that, where possible, it makes good business sense to share salary details at the very beginning of the application process.

The Fawcett Society, the UK’s leading charity that campaigns for gender equality and women’s rights, conducted research that shows a requirement to provide salary history generated less confidence in pay negotiation. A total of 58 per cent of women said they felt they had received a lower salary offer than they would have if the question had not been asked during the application process.

Many employers lack agreed pay scales which in turn makes it more challenging to include pay information on job adverts.

The initiative will see the Government work with employers to develop and pilot a methodology that others can adapt so that all organisations can provide payment information at the recruitment stage and remove pay history questions if they so wish.

Jemima Olchawski, Chief Executive at the Fawcett Society, said: “We are pleased that the government is encouraging employers to remove embedded bias from recruitment practices and supporting our call to End Salary History. Asking salary history questions keeps women on lower salaries and contributes to the UK’s gender pay gap – and can mean that past pay discrimination follows women and other groups throughout their careers.

“Evidence from US states which have banned asking about past salary shows that is a simple, evidence-led way to improve pay equality for women, people of colour and disabled people. This is an important first step. We hope more employers will answer this call, and sign Fawcett’s pledge, as part of other actions to tackle their pay gaps.”

Unpaid care work, such as childcare and informal adult care, is disproportionately performed by women which can have a big impact on pay and progression. Data shows returners with degrees are, on average, paid 70 per cent of the hourly wage of an equivalent colleague who has remained in the workplace. Acre recently supported (In)Credible, a social enterprise dedicated to reframing caring experience as a credible form of skills development. They are encouraging businesses to recognise the skills that people who take time to care for others, as parents or unpaid carers, which have never been more needed in the professional world. Jen Scarlet, Founder at (In)Credible said "Thank you Acre- We're so delighted to have your support to help transform recruitment to embrace these crucial human skills!"

The 2021 STEM Returners index survey revealed that 61 per cent of returners found returning to the industry difficult. Those who did return commented on being overqualified for their role and had entered at levels below where they were prior to their break.

The new programme, which will run for at least two years, will support returners across the UK to refresh and develop their skills in sectors where their talents are most needed. The resulting evidence will provide a base for organisations to provide their own returner programmes.

Chloë Hunt, Global Head of Research & Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, at Acre said: "This is an encouraging step for the UK market to align itself with more progressive and inclusive practices adopted in other markets. Salary transparency is a critical part of inunlockinginequalities in the workforce. Valuing and enabling more individuals seeking to return to work is an absolute must if we want to be able to reach into wider talent pools and access the full talent market. The impact of supporting job seekers returning to work will level the playing field and reduce the discrimination gap."

Chloë manages Acre’s global research function which underpins all of Acre's services and sectors. She and her team conduct in-depth market analyses, headhunting, talent assessments and candidate engagement services. Chloë has a strong track record of success with executive-level placements in the public and private sectors.

Acre's Research Function runs the Business Intelligence & Salary Benchmarking services. Chloë has led this for over 5 years. This includes; talent mapping and assistance with mergers and acquisitions and support for special projects that enable Acre's clients to make better hiring decisions and smarter business choices

Chloë also leads the development of Acre’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) strategy, co-chairs Acre’s EDI steering committee and works with Acre's SLT in developing an inclusive and diverse recruitment process.