What do STEM graduates want from employers in 2023?

Dec 14, 2022 | Attraction & marketing, Research

New data reveals how to attract female and non-binary STEM graduates in 2023, explains Pam Mcgee from STEM Women.

In autumn 2022, STEM Women’s careers and networking events saw more than 7,000 students connecting with employers across our online, hybrid and in-person events.

The feedback we gather from this community gives us an insight into what students and recent graduates want from employers in the coming year – research which we will share in full in our 2023 whitepaper launching in January.

In the meantime, we’re busy analysing the headline responses and there are some clear messages coming through for attraction and engagement.



The good news is that, despite a lingering nervousness and lack of confidence, students and graduates still see a huge value in networking with employers.

It’s long been the case that students want to hear from company representatives and this is true both pre- and post-pandemic. We found a consistent three quarters of STEM Women’s survey respondents across the last three years were more likely to apply to a company if they had heard a representative speak during an event.

In 2019, 70% of respondents said they were more likely to apply to a company that they had heard speak during an event. In 2021 this increased slightly to 77%, reflecting the lockdown environment, and in 2022 this positive response has remained at a similar level (73%).


Face-to-face events

It won’t come as any surprise to report that students are keen to get back to in-person events.

In 2021, 33% of respondents said their preference was for in-person events, with 20% preferring virtual events and 47% stating no preference. In 2022 the preference for in-person events has increased to 43%, with the preference for virtual events dropping slightly to 17%, and 40% stating no preference for either.

As event hosts, of course it’s incredibly rewarding to see rooms full of students networking with employers as well as hearing their real-time reactions to insight talks.

That said, virtual interactions are now firmly embedded in our daily lives and there are good reasons to maintain a virtual offer, allowing for greater accessibility and inclusion. In 2023, we will offer a range of both in-person and online events, reflecting the diversity of our community.



Our student feedback shows that it’s not so much the format of events as what employers are saying, and showing, about the reality of the new world of work. What we now see from our community is an increased emphasis on seeing an honest, real-life reflection of company culture.

Now more than ever, students and graduates want to get a sense of the humans behind the brand – something that can be traced back to the pandemic as we all had to get comfortable with others seeing into our homes and our lives.

We also saw many people struggling to cope and suffering burnout, leading to huge upheaval in the corporate world.

After this reshaping experience, soulless corporate messaging just doesn’t work. The majority of students and graduates belong to Generation Z, who are more than used to using Tiktok and BeReal to see ‘behind the scenes’ and get a more authentic impression of anything they’re interested in – and this includes their careers.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and sustainability are also really important to this generation, and they can spot tick-box statements and ‘greenwashing’ a mile away. As one student said, “When a speaker regurgitates company values, this puts me off.”

Instead, students prefer to hear about real experiences from representatives and role models – not a perfect, linear journey to success but one that includes mistakes and setbacks, and which acknowledges the reality of being underrepresented within an industry.

For example, in the case of STEM Women, what it’s like to be the only woman in a room, or a team, and practical tips on how to manage this.

Some of the most inspiring talks we have hosted have been those in which role models have spoken openly and passionately about how they have advocated for themselves in the workplace, fought against unconscious bias, and dealt with difficult situations. There’s no better endorsement for an organisation than having recruited and retained these strong women working in STEM.


4 things STEM students want to know

  1. Whilst they may be familiar with your brand and sector, students may not know the full range of roles an employer has available.

This can be particularly important in STEM employers as many offer some roles which aren’t discipline-specific or don’t require a pre-existing technical skill.

Describing these opportunities and what they entail day-to-day can appeal to a wider and more diverse audience.

  1. Our research participants want to understand organisational culture and what this means in practice.

A current employee who can give a real sense of the working culture is a great asset. They might talk about a typical day in the role, support structures such as mentoring, diversity networks or training, and company benefits (ones they actually use!), or talk about the team-building, volunteering or inclusive social activities which have helped them to feel a sense of belonging.

  1. Students and graduates want to see EDI and sustainability credentials up front.

As well as being women or non-binary, many of our community represent the intersections of diversity, so inclusivity matters to them in real terms; EDI and sustainability are both incredibly important to this generation and they want to see this in practice right from the beginning, including in recruitment practices – and not as a tick-box exercise.

  1. They want to empathise with a career journey. Despite having clear expectations, this generation are lacking in confidence and still feeling anxious about the future.

Speakers who can talk about overcoming nervousness and developing skills such as public speaking, or reference imposter syndrome in a way that reframes or even rejects it, can be helpful and engaging for this audience.

Many of our recent speakers have also shared their non-linear career journeys in a way which has really resonated with an audience who may not yet know what they want to do.

It’s often the organisational culture, rather than just the industry, which really appeals to these jobseekers, and hearing others go through the same journey from uncertainty to feeling that they belong can be really reassuring. As one speaker noted, “The more honest and authentic you are, the better your reputation is – act with integrity – be brave, and be bold”.

We look forward to bringing many more of inspiring and insightful career journeys to our STEM Women community in 2023.

Read more insight and advice on what graduates want from employers

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