More can be done to bring women back to work

Edinburgh's Selex are renowned for their flexible working policies. Picture: TSPL

Edinburgh's Selex are renowned for their flexible working policies. Picture: TSPL

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WE READ about so many things that are being done to ensure the workforce is more representative, but what more needs to be done? What about women returning to work after career breaks?

The expected shortfall in experienced scientists, engineers and technicians in Scotland could be improved with appropriate employment policies and practices to make it possible for women with these qualifications and skills to re-join the workforce after a few years career break for family commitments.

These issues were discussed at an Engineering Policy Group Scotland (EPGS) “Holyrood briefing” at the Scottish Parliament recently (29 May) chaired by Maureen Watt MSP. Attendees included MSPs, academics, industrialists and Scottish Government representatives.

Some organisations are taking a leading position, such as the Scottish Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, as well as Scottish academia.

There are signs that pockets of Scottish industry are waking up to the need to operate flexible working and recruitment policies, which make it possible for women to get back into the workforce at appropriate levels.

Companies such as Selex Electronic Systems in Edinburgh, are recognised for their positive policies and practices towards ensuring equal opportunities for women so they can achieve the right family/ work balance; and the need to enthuse young people about science, engineering and mathematics.

MSPs have shown some consideration for this topic, too, and this is evident when looking at the committee work that guides the Scottish Government’s economic policies.

An area that requires particular attention is the need to ensure that child care policies and costs make it economically viable for women to return to work.

But, more than anything else, is the need for more employers to ensure their employment policies and practices are attractive. Otherwise the economy will suffer as we continue to have a shortage of these vital skills.

• Derek Elder is chairman of IET Engineering Policy Group Scotland

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