The UK is on track to have one million women working in core science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) roles by 2020.

That is according to new research by WISE, the campaign for gender balance in STEM, which shows there are currently over 900,000 women working in STEM and an estimated 200,000 with relevant qualifications will reach working age within the next two years.

The news was announced at the WISE 2018 Awards, which recognise individuals and organisations actively working to promote STEM to girls and women. Costain, Network Rail, EDF Energy and BAM Nuttall were among some of the winners.

“We need UK employers to do more and follow the great example of our award winners who are leading the way,” said WISE chief executive Helen Wollaston.

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“They have managed to get more women into engineering and technology, removed barriers preventing women moving up through the ranks and seen the benefits of doing so in terms of improved business performance.

“The great news is that there are more women than ever before coming onto the labour market with engineering and technology qualifications. If employers manage to recruit just half of these women, the UK will have achieved a major milestone.”

WISE also hopes to see an increase in the proportion of girls choosing maths, physics, computer science and engineering, as well as making it easier for women who did not study these subjects at school, college or university, to obtain the relevant qualifications later in life.

Wollaston added: “There is a major opportunity for companies in the UK to step up their efforts to ensure they retain the women they already have in STEM roles, as well as opening doors for those who may want to retrain from other roles or return after career breaks.

“Employers can benefit from re-training women who already work for them, many of whom would jump at the opportunity to learn new skills and have a more interesting role with better pay and prospects. This will also help with the gender pay gap.”

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Trudy Norris-Grey, WISE chair and Microsoft general manager, said the step closer to one million women in STEM is “fantastic” but stressed that the tech industry is “not making the progress that is being seen elsewhere” in other industries.

“Faced with a huge growth in demand for technology skills in every sector of the economy, we have to increase the number of women working in tech or face a severe skills shortage,” she added.

“We don’t want women to lose out on future jobs and nor can business afford to lose out on their talents and contribution.”

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