Women Prove to be Winning Candidates for Graduate Schemes (But Not Enough Apply!)

A new survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) has revealed that women are less likely to apply for graduate schemes than men, but are more likely to land a job if they do apply.

AGR’s findings showed that although women make up 54% of students, only 47% of applicants to graduate schemes are female. Yet despite this disparity, they bagged 49% of the places available – meaning that they are more likely to be successful.

The Diversity and Inclusion Survey canvassed responses from 170 graduate employers across a range of industries, of which 32 were able to provide information regarding the gender, ethnicity, and disability of their graduate applicants and hires. The high percentage of female hires seemed to reflect the fact that three-quarters of the companies surveyed have a diversity strategy, and that firms are keen to address gender imbalance in the workforce.

In certain sectors where the female graduates were far outnumbered by men, they hit well above their weight in terms of employability. While women made up only 15% of engineering students, they took 25% of places on graduate schemes. Female IT students saw a similar pattern, winning 27% of spots though only making up 17% of the student body.

Construction, another male-dominated field, has increased its share of female hires by 3% in a year.

However, it’s clear there’s still progress to be made. The survey indicates that one significant barrier to gender equality that needs to be overcome is the disproportionately low number of women applying in the first place.

Why less female graduates choose to apply than their male peers is not certain. Stephen Isherwood, AGR’s chief executive, has suggested that a lack of self-assurance could be one underlying cause, saying ‘We need to boost confidence and encourage more female graduates to reach their potential’.

That a lack of confidence amongst female students exists is backed up by another recent survey. Research conducted by Girlguiding UK suggests that as young women approach employment, they become more disheartened about their chances of succeeding in their chosen jobs. Only a third of young women aged 17-21 believe that they have an equal chance of doing so as men, compared to 90% of girls aged 9-10.

However, according to Bright Network’s 2016/17 research report ‘What do Graduates Want?’, respondents ranked ‘my gender’ as the least significant barrier to securing a graduate role.

Negative perceptions about the experience of women in male-dominated sectors could also have an effect. According to Bright Network’s survey, while female students are more likely than men to want to go into media or the public sector, they are less likely to be interested in securing a graduate role in banking, finance, tech, and engineering.

As shown by the Times Top 50 Employers for Women 2016 – which featured several companies from these industries – employers are making an effort to encourage more women to apply, and to change the culture within their companies.

Ultimately it seems that we’re heading in the right direction, but there’s still a way to go.

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