The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
According to research, an estimated 1 in 9 mothers, or 54,000 women every year, report being forced out of jobs following maternity leave and those that are coming back after maternity breaks or after a break, required support and interventions to help them with on-ramping (EHRC 2016; Greer, 2013; Hewlett 2008). For these women returners, support mechanisms also need to address issues such as building confidence and resilience, identity work to understand themselves and what they can offer, and ability to articulate their value to potential employers. Thus they require more than just an updated skillset to facilitate successful re-entry.
The Returning to STEM Badged Open Course was developed in 2016 to offer support for women returning to STEM careers after an extended break. This was a continuation of a succession of projects and initiatives by the OU to support women returners back in to STEM employment and education.
Equate Scotland are the lead agency in Scotland working on equality and diversity in STEM. In partnership with Prospect (the trade union for professionals) and funded by The Scottish Government, they have been working on supporting experienced women back into the STEM sector since 2014. A curriculum partnership between Equate and the Open University was set up in 2016 to provide a collaborative programme for women returners, using a combination of the Returning to STEM BOC, together with additional support, career clinics and returnships, for a cohort of Scottish women returning to STEM after a career break.
This final report describes the project and evaluation of this blended learning model. The study used a mixed methods approach and was designed to take a holistic view of the integrated programme of activities, as well as individual elements of the blended learning model including the online course, career clinics and returnships, and the webinars. It also outlines the requirements and approach needed to address the demands and needs of different groups of learners at different life-course stages, taking into consideration gender and other diversity characteristics. Considerations about the impact of the project will be also addressed.