Document Abstract

Educational innovations supporting women to return to STEM careers

Looks at educational initiatives which aim to support women to return to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in Northern Ireland. Focuses on an evaluation of the Open University’s ‘Return to SET’ course, which provided a series of activities that aimed to boost women returners’ employability potential in science, engineering and technology careers. Notes that over 1000 women from the UK and Northern Ireland participated in the ten week online course between 2005 and 2011. Reports that over 70% of women were working after five years, and the majority were in a STEM occupation. Highlights five main strategies that had helped those who had achieved successful returns: getting a foot in the door (including volunteering); networking (finding unadvertised positions through contacts); retraining (in STEM related skills); helping hand (including accessing agencies or funding resources for women returners); and back to basics (entailing a trade-off such as working in a lower status job in return for flexibility). Recommends that policy makers and educational institutions: provide dedicated public funding to support women returners; encourage employers to develop ‘returnships’; facilitate community building and peer support for women returners; address diversity and unequal opportunities; and promote networking as a job seeking strategy.


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Herman, Clem; Thomas, Elaine; Chicot, Katie
Ref No:
Northern Ireland Assembly

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