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Solving gender pay gap starts at school

30 July 2009

Action must be taken to close a gender pay gap in the science, engineering and technology (SET) sectors, according to The UK Resource Centre for Women in SET. The organisation says the gap can be closed by tackling the problem early and addressing career choices at schools.

The director of the UKRC for Women in SET, Annette Williams, said more work needs to be done to address the stereotyping of careers.

She said she agreed with the recommendations in a recent report by the Women and Work Commission. The report called for buddying and work placement schemes for girls in non-traditional areas, investment in challenging gender and socio-economic stereotyping issues in school careers services, and investing more in promoting quality flexible and part time work.

“Across the science, engineering and technology sectors – which are key to the future economic prospects of the country – there are huge skills gaps and whole professions like chemical engineering where people do not know where the next generation of workers will come from,” she said.

“We must work with industry and with young people to show that these are fantastic, exciting and well paid careers. This will mean a culture change in some traditionally male-dominated industries, but giving good advice to students and breaking down these stereotypes is the first part of this process. Girls outperform boys in science and technology related GCSEs and A levels, so policies and resources need to be put in place to address the barriers which impede their progression into non-traditional occupations.

“Flexible working, family friendly policies and considering new areas to recruit new employees are all vital, and industries must show that they are truly opening to employing women.

Williams concluded: “Discrimination is one part of the problem, and the SET sectors are the key to our economic recovery and we must invest in them. It cannot be right that women are discriminated against in terms of pay or in terms of access to these career, and in the end the biggest victim is the UK itself.”

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