Bringing the ladies back

OVER 80 female science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent have returned to the country under TalentCorp’s Returning Expert Programme (REP) since 2011.

The industry with the most female STEM returnees is the oil, gas and energy sector. They make up 34% of the REP participants, TalentCorp chief executive officer Shareen Shariza Datuk Abdul Ghani says.

This, she says, is followed by healthcare (15%), financial services (10%), business services (10%) and communications, content and infrastructure (10%). Since the start of TalentCorp’s Career Comeback Programme in 2015, some 30 women in the STEM industries have returned to the workplace. More than half of these women are from the electrical and electronic industry, while close to 25% are from the ICT or global business services sector, she adds.

STEM fields include medicine, engineering, technology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, statistics, biology, astrophysics, biochemistry and genetic engineering. So, the distribution of gender in STEM vary from job types and industries, Shareen points out.

“For example, the 2016 Labour Force Survey indicates that women make up 79.7% of human health and social professionals, and 48.6% in professional, scientific and technical professions. So, it’s inaccurate to conclude that women are underrepresented in STEM industries.”

From 2010-2015, a high number of females graduated from science and mathematics-related courses, while technology courses saw an equal number of female and male graduates, she adds.

To address Digital Revolution challenges, graduates must be equipped with the right skills, she says. The country has to bridge critical skill gaps in areas of growth.

“We’re losing half our workforce – our skilled women talent. Women tend to exit the workforce in their late 20s to early 30s, due to family commitments. And once they leave, most don’t return.”

The society, she feels, continues to expect women to play the key role in nurturing their families. And while women are strong family pillars, their contribution to the workforce must not be discounted.

“Skilled professional women should be encouraged by efforts that are in place to help them balance their career goals and responsibilities at home.”

It’s important, she says, to tap into this pool of skilled women graduates to ensure that the nation’s talent pipeline continues to be robust.

To increase the number of women including STEM female graduates in the workplace, TalentCorp is:

> Promoting flexible working arrangements.

> Encouraging women on career breaks to return to the workforce.

> Increasing the number of returning STEM professionals to Malaysia.

> Working with leading STEM employers to improve graduate employability across the industries.

Related stories:

Fewer women opt for STEM

Where are the women?

Getting girls to go for STEM

MEF: Retain the talent

STEM , science , maths , labour