APU Business Original

Women Returning to the Workforce Are Looking at STEM Careers

By Allison Philips
Senior Copywriter and Edge Contributor

Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic appeared in our lives and changed everything, data shows women in the workforce were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Many of these female workers assumed roles as caregivers and home school instructors when childcare centers and schools were forced to close.

So many women have left the workforce that we are now witnessing the loss of a whole generation of progress. The caregiving issue alone engulfed many women, creating new barriers to women’s participation in the workforce.   

A disproportionate number of employees are voluntarily leaving the workforce because of the Great Resignation phenomenon. Consequently, employers are struggling to attract and retain top talent for the post-pandemic world.

This need for new talent calls for employers to use bold, flexible hiring strategies. At the same time, employers should also consider hiring the motivated and skilled segment of the female workforce but also accommodate the challenges that many women face in balancing their careers and family responsibilities.

Most Women Who Left the Workforce during the Pandemic Are Planning a Comeback

Before the pandemic began, women held the majority of in-person jobs. However, these female workers either lost their jobs during the pandemic or suffered negative consequences from employers, such as fewer hours and less pay.

Now, a lot of people, especially men, are back at work. However, women’s participation in today’s workforce lags behind men’s. Women interested in rejoining the workforce commonly face various obstacles, including employer bias when it comes to gaps in work history and gender inequity in their households.

There is, however, a bright light appearing at the end of the tunnel. Two out of three women who were forced to stop working during the pandemic are planning their return to the workforce. This is good news for employers, but it also requires new thinking when it comes to offering benefits and workplace culture.

Women want their employers to offer flexible work schedules, career progression, economic incentives, customized benefits and upskilling opportunities. Female employees also want employers to stay abreast of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives to level the playing field in organizations.

STEM Careers Are Front and Center as Women Look to Regain Their Career Footing

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are all job sectors that have been considered traditionally male fields for a very long time. Computer science is the one exception, but it wasn’t always this way.

During World War II, the U.S. government inspired more women to work in technical jobs, and it was women who originated the field of computer programming. The very first coders in the U.S. were women, and they taught other female employees how to program once the war ended.

Through the next two generations, the computer science field became a man’s arena. As a result, fewer and fewer women earned STEM degrees, and they went to work in traditionally “female” jobs, not STEM careers.

Now that employers must contend with the Great Resignation and the ongoing talent shortage, opportunities in computer science and other STEM disciplines are stepping into the spotlight for many women.

Computer science is one area poised to experience robust growth over the next decade. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of computer and information research scientists will grow 22% between 2020 and 2030.

Many women who are now deciding to reenter the workforce are giving STEM careers serious consideration. As businesses wrestle with a talent crunch exacerbated by a lack of skilled workers, employers have an unprecedented opportunity to build out their talent pipelines and inspire women to start or continue their own career journeys in STEM.

Allison Philips has over a decade of experience covering education, financial services, technology, travel, and healthcare industries. Her work has appeared in campaigns for clients such as AARP, Audi, Bloomberg BNA, Blue Shield, Burger King, Citibank, Marriott, Oracle, American Military University, and American Public University.

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