Women Are Choosing Careers in STEM When Returning to the Workforce During Post-Pandemic ‘Great Reevaluation’

Two female scientists talking together and writing data in a notebook while working at a table in a lab.
Stígur Már Karlsson /Heimsmyndir / Getty Images

The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women, as it exacerbated many of the challenges they already faced, including access to financing, industry segmentation and child care. But after 18 months of experiencing effects on their careers, almost two in three women who left the workforce during this period say they are ready to return, and they are choosing a specific field: STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) according to a new survey.

See: COVID-19 Pandemic: One Year Later, Women are Twice As Burnt-Out As Men in the Workplace
Find: Cultivating Future Female Leaders: How To Elevate Other Women in the Workplace

The MetLife survey finds that 48% of women said the pandemic has negatively impacted their careers, and 63% who left the workforce during this period say they are ready to return.

Most notably, eight in 10 of those are considering careers in STEM, reflecting a shift in the paradigm from the “Great Resignation” to the “Great Reevaluation,” according to the survey.

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Bill Pappas, executive vice president and head of Global Technology and Operations at MetLife, tells GOBankingRates that it’s extremely encouraging that 63%  of women who left the workforce during the pandemic are now ready to return and considering a STEM career.

“We’re calling it the “Great Reevaluation,” and we have a significant responsibility to ensure they know we’re doubling down on our efforts to advance women in the workforce – removing barriers of the past and bolstering the STEM leadership pipeline,” Pappas says.

The MetLife survey shows women interested in STEM identify several factors that would encourage them to pursue a career in those fields, including more diversity, equity and inclusion in the leadership pipeline, with 38%; benefits that better fit their needs, with 33%; more flexibility in work arrangements, with 31%; dedicated training that help their career progression, with 30%; paid internships or apprenticeships, with 29%; and employee resource groups, with 28%.

Nicole Tay, head of marketing at Skynet Labs, tells GOBankingRates that the results of the Metlife study are both important and unsurprising.

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“We have long known that greater mentorship opportunities, genuine investment in DEIA, as well as workplace flexibility are key indicators of healthy company cultures and high employee retention,” Tay says. “Notably, however, during COVID we saw how women disproportionately took on the burden of caretaking. So, it’s unsurprising that many struggled to cope during COVID and many left their jobs.”

Tay adds that as a woman who transitioned from public health to crypto during the pandemic, “I’m excited to see from the survey that there are more women interested in STEM (We need them!).” She adds, however, that if we are to see those women stay in STEM, companies need to be more proactive in structurally imbuing gender equity into their cultures.

“We need to ensure that women are inspired and empowered to grow their career by addressing what companies can do to support women at this pivotal moment,” Susan Podlogar, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at MetLife, said in the survey. “With so many women considering a STEM career and one in three saying they don’t know where to start, employers have both a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to help them forge a path forward.”

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See: This Is the Biggest Barrier Holding Women Back in the Workplace
Find: Why Child Care Still Plays a Significant Role in Getting Parents Back to Work

Underscoring the need for the advancement of women in STEM careers, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) says that women make up only 28% of the workforce in STEM, and men vastly outnumber women majoring in most STEM fields in college. Engineering and computer science — two of the most lucrative STEM fields — remain heavily male-dominated: only 21% of engineering majors and 19% of computer science majors are women, according to AAUW’s website.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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