Natalie Desty

Founder & Director of STEM Returners


Natalie Desty is the Founder and Director of STEM Returners, an award-winning solution to an industry wide problem. After building a progressive career in recruitment, where she was Director of Maritime Engineering at a large recruitment company, Natalie was struck by the apparent lack of progress in diversity and inclusion within STEM industries. She was particularly concerned by the insurmountable barriers that people who have had a career break face, when wanting to return to STEM roles.

Natalie created a small pilot returners programme for a group of employers, which was a resounding success. Natalie has developed this programme into STEM Returners, which has supported hundreds of people to restart their careers in internationally renowned organisations such as BAE Systems, SSE and Leonardo UK. Returners take part in 12-week paid placements, enabling STEM leaders to access the best available talent, and in doing so, improve diversity and inclusion within their organisation. Ninety-six percent of returners secure a permanent position within the host organisation following the placement. Natalie has a BA Honours degree in International Relations and Politics from the University of Portsmouth and was given the Eily Keary Award by the Royal Institute of Naval Architects for increasing equality, diversity and inclusion in the maritime industry. STEM Returners was awarded the Maritime UK Diversity Award in 2020, the Diversity in Engineering Award by Enginuity in March 2021, and Best Returnship Programme by the Women in Tech Employer Awards in May 2022. In September 2021, Natalie was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Engineering by Southampton Solent University to recognise her work in increasing diversity in STEM.