How marketing can support the gender imbalance in STEM based businesses

Did you know that males account for 84% of all people who hold STEM qualifications? And only one in four information technology graduates, and fewer than one in 10 engineering graduates in Australia is female?

The Australian Government’s Advancing Women in STEM Strategy aims to increase gender equity in STEM education and careers by enabling STEM potential through education, supporting women in STEM careers, and making women in STEM visible.

“Gender inequity not only limits the available talent – it is bad for business. Gender diverse companies are 15 per cent more likely to financially outperform their counterparts. The Grattan Institute has estimated that an extra six per cent of women in the workforce could add up to $25 billion to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product.”

Advancing Women in STEM Strategy

So, getting more women, and of course people across all intersections, into STEM is a HUGE deal. And this does not just apply to the more traditional – often academic – roles within the actual artforms of science, engineering, technology and maths. In our case, we see attracting more women into STEM-based industries such as manufacturing, heavy industry, defence, and so on is also key to Australia’s future prosperity and wellbeing, and there are a few ways marketing can look to support this:

  • Branding, positioning and presentation: Marketing does the heavy lifting when it comes to ensuring an organisation and its brand presents in a compelling and engaging way with the market. This is not only critical for attracting new clients – it is also a key factor when it comes to attracting new talent. Ensuring that STEM-based businesses present themselves in a way that makes them appealing to all genders is important. We don’t mean that the brands can’t align with more traditionally-viewed masculine traits such as strength and courage (that works for us ladies at TMM) – they just need to be appropriate and professional so that women of all types will consider them as a potential employer and not somewhere they feel like they won’t fit in, or won’t be proud to tell people they work there.
  • Building online visibility: In our experience, many B2B organisations are still some way behind when it comes to the online world, and STEM-based businesses in particular have not focussed on this area of the business – often because they are too busy inventing and making amazing things, but also perhaps because they have felt the digital marketing world is something for selling t-shirts or toasters, not the often complex or sometimes multi-million dollar services or solutions they offer. But consider this: According to this 2014 report by Google (yep, even way back then) almost 50% of B2B buyers doing initial research – i.e. those selecting a shortlist of vendors to invite to the final stages of the process – were millennials, and that number continues to grow. And a report by Forrester also found that 68% of B2B customers prefer to research independently online and 60% of buyers with rather not communicate with sales reps as their primary information source.

    And think about this specifically in the context of women working in STEM-based organisations – perhaps they would be even more likely to want to conduct their initial research online, as they want to be armed with all of the information they will need to enter and navigate a buying process that will most likely be dominated – for now at least – by men. It is critical that an organisation’s digital ‘shopfront’ – your website – makes it as easy as possible for everyone to find out about your business and solutions, and that your other digital channels support it by sharing the right kind of information; to the right markets, at the right time.
  • Sharing success stories: telling the stories of Australian STEM-based businesses can help build the overall profile of these industries and demonstrate the positive impact they are often having on communities around the country and the world. Some of the innovations STEM-based businesses are delivering are genuinely exciting and appeal to anyone wanting to make a difference – not just women. There is also a case for sharing success stories of the women within these organisations whenever and wherever they are relevant and appropriate, to make it even more apparent that they are definitely a place of employment that people of all diverse backgrounds should want to be part of.

The irony is, that those doing marketing within these often traditionally male-dominated STEM-based organisations is typically done by women – 61% of advertising and marketing professionals, and 74% of clerical and administrative positions (which are often responsible for marketing), are women. These women can play a key role not only in ensuring their brands and businesses maximise the opportunities available to them when it comes to the supply of products and services, but also in attracting more women into these organisations to contribute to – and be part of – their success.

“STEM knowledge and skills are the pathway to more efficient services, individually tailored products, advances in resource management, improved personal and national security, better education and care – ultimately, a more sustainable and resilient society that all Australians will benefit from in their daily lives. As long as half of the population is being held back from exploring and applying their abilities and celebrating their achievements in STEM, Australia is also being held back from reaching its full potential.”

Advancing Women in STEM Strategy