Culture of sexism and bullying causes female STEM staff to leave professions, says Labour MP

Meg Munn, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, has written an interesting column in the Yorkshire Post about women working in technology, manufacturing, engineering and science fields.

Meg Munn believes a problem exists in encouraging women to stay working in the sectors once qualified, saying many “become disillusioned and leave”, costing the UK economy.

According to her article, around 70% of women with relevant qualifications leave their profession, not to return. In 2008, out of 620,000 female STEM graduates, only a third (185,000) were employed in those sectors.

And the reason? Munn says workplaces have a culture where women experience “sexist remarks and even outright bullying”, isolating women and, ultimately, influencing them to leave the profession they trained in.

“It’s a long standing problem. There are numerous issues entangled at the root of why this is so, some structural, many deep-seated and embedded in workplace culture […] The stubborn issue of workplace culture needs new thinking and new ideas. Without changing the culture at work, the basic problems will persist and we will continue squandering the talents of half the population,” writes Munn.

She believes workplaces need to fully incorporate flexible working, career breaks and maternity leave to change the cultural legacy.

Does a sexist culture still exist in the UK as a barrier to women pursuing STEM careers?