In an online survey conducted between October 9 – October 15, 2020, involving 9,755 U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 65, 58 per cent of female-identifying respondents said COVID-19 has negatively impacted their careers. About one-quarter said they’ve been considering a career change since the pandemic, with 2 in 5 disclosing they are interested in pursuing a career in a STEM field.
The survey was conducted by U.S. life insurance company Metlife and has a margin of error of +/-5%.
“We have an opportunity to turn this moment of crisis into a moment of opportunity that accelerates the number of women entering STEM professions,” Susan Podlogar, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at MetLife, says in a statement.
“The key is to remove roadblocks so that top talent can enter, stay, and flourish in STEM careers.”
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BARRIERS TO ENTRY
While participants expressed interest in pursuing STEM careers, some respondents acknowledged industry barriers. Only one-quarter felt STEM professions are supportive of women. By comparison, nearly 50 per cent of respondents felt the education industry was supportive.
The finding is reminiscent of the results of a September 2019 survey on women’s perceptions of the Canadian tech industry. In that poll, 43 per cent of respondents felt women were not welcome in tech fields, and 54 per cent said tech companies have a “bad reputation” when it comes to gender and equality.
Another barrier to entry, as identified by 25 per cent of the participants in the Metlife poll, was a lack of skills or mentorship — findings that align with a separate survey conducted by HR consulting firm Randstad Canada in November 2019. In it, 32 per cent of respondents cited a lack of female mentors as a likely contributor to the corporate gender gap.
UPTICK IN WOMEN APPLYING FOR STEM JOBS
The findings could be indicative of a wider push towards STEM jobs. An October 2019 analysis by Handshake, an online career community for college students, found that between June 1, 2018, and May 21, 2019, an increasing number of women were applying for tech jobs — even those without STEM degrees.
During that time, Handshake noted a:
- 72 per cent increase in women applying for software developer and engineer roles;
- 85 per cent increase in women applying for data scientist roles; and a
- 227 per cent increase in women applying for data engineer positions.
“By no means have the challenges facing women entering the tech workforce disappeared, but this survey’s results suggest an encouraging trend with women remaining undeterred and persevering despite the obstacles,” Christine Cruzvergara, Vice President of Higher Education and Student Success at Handshake, said in a statement at the time.
In a survey of 9,755 people, 2 in 5 women said they have been considering switching careers to work in a stem field.