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Survey reveals women in STEM prefer working for SMEs

Scientists in lab

A survey of women in STEM has revealed female candidates prefer to work for SMEs rather than larger organisations and value career progression opportunities, the reputation of an employer and the learning opportunities available.

To better support STEM SME employers in attracting and retaining the best female talent, and to help address a gender balance in the workplace, Purpose HR – with the support of clients Administrate and Modulr – set out to look into what qualified STEM female candidates want from the SMEs they would work for.

The survey revealed women in STEM would prefer to work for SMEs rather than larger organisations, as they perceive that this gives them a greater opportunity to have an impact, more opportunities for progression and career development and better team dynamics or a community-like environment.

Women in STEM also perceive the biggest strengths of SMEs to be flatter organisational structures and innovation. Nonetheless, amongst other initiatives, women in STEM feel that SMEs could be made more attractive by openly offering flexibility in hours and by providing more visibly structured opportunities for learning and development and for career progression.

When looking for a job, women in STEM prioritise career progression opportunities, followed by the reputation of the company, the learning opportunities available and the salary offered for the role.

Female candidates are also more likely to work for employers who: 

  • Offer the option of working flexibly from home where feasible
  • Have a policy of reviewing their gender pay gap
  • Collaborate with gender-based industry groups or gender equality networks
  • Remove names from all CVs in an effort to reduce bias
  • Have a public gender action plan on their website
  • Host events where women often feature as key experts and speakers
  • Have received favourable reviews from women on sites like

Based on the results of the survey, Purpose HR has created a list of recommendations for SME employers trying to attract and retain talented women in STEM.

How can SMEs be more attractive for women in STEM?

  • Opportunities to have an impact
  • Opportunities for progression and career development
  • Friendly and community work environment
  • Job security
  • Promote innovation
  • Flexible work styles
  • Welcome diversity
  • Increased brand awareness
  • Enhanced benefits packages



Purpose HR

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