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CARY – After more than 18 months of experiencing impacts on their careers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many women are now planning a return to the workforce, according to a new MetLife survey. Although nearly half of women (48%) said the pandemic has negatively impacted their careers, almost two in three (63%) who left the workforce during this period say they are ready to return. Eight in 10 of those are considering careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), reflecting a shift in the paradigm from the “Great Resignation” to the “Great Reevaluation.”

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“We’ve reached a critical inflection point in the workplace where women are evaluating their careers in a new light,” said Bill Pappas, executive vice president and head of Global Technology and Operations at MetLife. “It’s more important than ever that organizations – particularly those in STEM – offer the solutions that help women succeed. MetLife has a longstanding commitment of doing just that, promoting gender equity through programs like technical internships, trainings, and peer-to-peer mentoring – all of which aim to equip women in the workforce with the skills they need in demand areas.”

Where are women applying for jobs?

3 million women have left their career in the last 18 months, according to the MetLife study.

The CEO of Momentum, Jessica Mitsch, a tech company in the Triangle, said she has seen an increase in the number of women applying for tech jobs.

Like many women, Christine Dohrman, who works at a return-ship program in the area called Bandwidth, left the workforce in 2008 to raise her boys.

“if you take a look at how many people had to move their children from in person learning to remote, that’s incredibly difficult to do, so I would imagine women needed to take a break,” Dohrmann said.

Eight out of 10 women told MetLife they were considering a job in the tech industry.

Mitsch said that entry level jobs in the STEM field are right now have starting salaries of upwards of $70,000 a year.

“Plus, 80% of software engineer IT’s are able to work remotely,” she said.

It’s no surprise that women are choosing STEM careers, Mitsch said.

“As people reevaluate, ‘what makes most sense for me? From a lifestyle perspective, how do I make sure I have a pandemic-proof career that’s long term.’ They are looking at technology,” she said.

Employer Opportunities and Responsibilities

Employer-offered benefits and programs play a critical role in ensuring that women succeed and feel supported, particularly related to the retention of women in STEM fields.

The MetLife survey shows women interested in STEM identify several factors that would encourage them to pursue a career in those fields:

  • More diversity, equity, and inclusion in the leadership pipeline (38%).
  • Benefits that better fit their needs (33%).
  • More flexibility in work arrangements (31%).
  • Dedicated trainings that help their career progression (30%).
  • Paid internships or apprenticeships (29%).
  • Employee resource groups (28%).

MetLife Triangle Tech X: Women and STEM – Harnessing the Great Reevaluation

Using these survey insights to inform action, MetLife is assembling technology and business thought leaders at its third-annual virtual Triangle Tech X Conference on Oct. 26-27.

“We need to ensure that women are inspired and empowered to grow their career by addressing what companies can do to support women at this pivotal moment,” said Susan Podlogar, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at MetLife. “With so many women considering a STEM career and one in three saying they don’t know where to start, employers have both a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to help them forge a path forward.”

The two-day conference will host discussions with MetLife board members and executives and thought leaders from organizations such as Cisco, Dell, Microsoft, Red Hat, Thrive Global, Black Girls CODE and more. The conference will address both near- and long-term solutions for employers to develop, support, and sustain the female workforce, and provide women in STEM with key learnings and actionable insights for career empowerment.

WRAL’s Leslie Moreno contributed to this report.