Have you returned to work following a career break? STEM Returners need your thoughts!

Female engineer standing in a computer room, returning to work concept, STEM Returners


STEM Returners has launched its annual survey to understand STEM professionals’ experiences of trying to re-enter the sector after a career break.

The STEM Returners Index is open to all STEM professions who have had a gap in their career or who are attempting to return to work or who have recently returned to work.

The survey is anonymous and will ask a variety of questions including reasons for a career break and what challenges were faced when attempting to return to work. It will enable STEM Returners to further understand the barriers people face, track the progress UK STEM industries are making, and shine a light on the change needed to create fair opportunities for all.

This is the fourth Index launched by STEM Returners, which facilitates paid short-term employment placements with industry leaders like Wates, BAE Systems, Kier, Leonardo and Airbus to return highly qualified and experienced STEM professionals to work after a career break.

Returners can be any age, ethnicity, come from any background and importantly can have any length of break on their CV.

The 2023 STEM Returners Index will be open until 30 June 2023.

STEM Returners was set up by Natalie Desty in 2017 after she saw the challenges STEM professionals who had been out of employment for a period of time faced when trying to re-enter their profession.

Natalie Desty

Natalie said, “Over the years we’ve seen how hard it can be for people who have a gap on their CV return to employment. However, we want to get more detailed insight into these challenges and use this valuable information to help employers improve their recruitment processes. “

“Unfortunately, there is still a perception that a career break leads to a deterioration of skills, but we know this cannot be further from the truth.

“I would like to personally encourage any STEM professional who has had a career break to take part in the survey and tell us about their experiences.”

More than 1000 people completed last year’s survey in which nearly a third (29%) of women said they felt they had personally experienced bias in recruitment processes due to their gender compared to 7% of men, and despite 39% of females wanting to return to work due to children now being of school age (vs 8% of males), 40% of females still felt childcare responsibilities are a barrier to returning due to lack of flexibility offered by employers.

In the survey, men (46%) were more likely to be victim of bias because of their age compared to women (38%). Bias also appeared to become more prevalent with age, with more than half of over 55’s saying they have experienced personal bias, compared to as low as 23% in younger age groups.

The STEM Returners’ programme aims to eliminate these barriers, by giving candidates real work experience and mentoring during their placement and helping them to seamlessly adjust to life back in work. More than 310 candidates have joined programmes across the UK since 2017.


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