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Campaign for women in science, engineering and technology

Friday, March 14, 2014

Meg Munn MP recently chaired an International Women’s Day event organised by the Prospect trade union. The union, which represents professionals in science, engineering and technology (STEM), is calling for the government to set up a commission to increase the proportion of women in these sectors from 13% to 30% by 2020.

Speakers at the event were Dame Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist at the Met Office, Professor Athene Donald, professor of experimental physics at Cambridge University, Liam Byrne MP, shadow minister for higher education and science, and Sue Ferns, director of communications and research at Prospect.

Dame Julia and Athene Donald shared their personal experience as scientists and efforts to improve diversity in their respective institutions. Sue Ferns set out the experiences of some of Prospect’s 14000 female members and challenged the government to take a more ambitious approach to increasing the numbers of women in STEM careers. Liam Byrne MP emphasised the importance of these sectors for the economy and the necessity of attracting and retaining more people of both genders.

Employers’ being flexible was identified as being important, for instance support to help women back into work thus ensuring skills and expertise are not lost. A number of contributions from the audience concerned the need to change the culture of many work places to value women’s contributions. Specific changes were suggested, including making more government funding dependent on improving equality such as are in the Athena Swan accreditation for universities.

Meg said:

"This was a fascinating event that attracted an audience of people working in the sector. It is clear that there is a great deal to do in tackling the negative culture in many of these sectors. This is essential not just to ensure that more women choose careers in these areas but also for the health of our economy."

The Prospect Charter for STEM: http://library.prospect.org.uk/id/2014/00332

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