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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Opportunity for Women in Science

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Meg made the following speech at a reception in the House of Commons to launch a new opportunity for women in science. The collaboration between L’Oreal and the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science promises to help women scientists back into work in this sector after having had a break.


Greetings. I’m pleased to be here this morning at the launch of a significant opportunity for women in science.


The UK has always relied on the skills of its workforce for success, but these skills have to be even more innovative, original and pioneering to succeed in today’s global economy. Relying just on what we have always done will not do.


We are world leaders in important areas - financial services, drug innovation, parts of the ‘new’ media, retailing, and more.


The Government recognises that this country’s science base is the bedrock for a successful economic future.  There is an increasing demand for science, engineering and technology (SET) skills, a demand coupled with an ageing population - the UK’s productivity, competitive position and level of innovation are threatened by a shortage of qualified people.


This is why we are here this morning. This event is focussed on those women with SET degrees who are not currently working in the sector. We have a situation where around 24,000 women with SET qualifications return to work after career breaks each year - but only about 8,000 of them return to SET careers. 


This can be due to women wanting to return to work after childbirth who face employers who are not flexible about starting times etc. This attitude is still around despite research, and I would say experience, which shows that retaining well motivated staff pays dividends. Hopefully examples of good employers, trade union activity, and the package of measures introduced by the Government helping new parents will help change this.


We have this morning an excellent practical way of helping women back into science careers. A new collaboration between L’Oreal and the ‘UK Resource Centre for Women in Science’.


L’Oreal and UNESCO have been working together since 1999 on joint projects that aim to improve the situation for women in science. Their ‘For Women in Science’ programme identifies 5 women scientific researchers and 15 promising young women scientists to receive support for their research projects. 


The other partner, the ‘UK Resource Centre for Women in Science’ was launched in September 2004 to work with employers, professional bodies and women to remove barriers that stop individuals working to their full capacity. The Government has backed the Centre with nearly £7 million.


The collaboration between the Centre and L’Oreal is part of the Centre’s Returners Programme. We need not only more women going into SET careers, but also the removal of ‘sticky floors’ and ‘glass ceilings’ which prevent them from reaching senior positions.


I am delighted to announce that L’Oreal UK is to sponsor 3 female returner bursaries in partnership with the Resources Centre. The bursaries will be for £10,000, with £5,000 from each partner.


Any women scientist with a PhD who has taken at least a 12-month break will be eligible to apply. The winners will have set out a clear case for how they would spend the bursary to assist them in furthering their scientific research while L’Oreal and the Resource Centre will monitor the progress of the recipients.


This is a really excellent initiative and I am sure that it will be a big success. As Deputy Minister for Women with a responsibility for encouraging women entrepreneurs in whatever field of endeavour I am delighted to be the one to officially launch it.


I am hopeful that with L’Oreal and the UK Resource Centre working in partnership we will be able to encourage many women graduates back into science, letting their talents bloom for their benefit, their employers, and the country as a whole. 

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