• Men and women sitting in a conference lecture
08 Apr | Lincoln News | Women in Science

Promoting Women in STEM 2017 - a strategy forum

Professor Belinda Colston, School of Chemistry and EGC Director (Science), joined leaders from BEIS, the WISE Campaign & UCL at a strategy forum in Wesminster to examine effective strategies and award-winning initiatives for enhancing women’s engagement in STEM

Photo credit: Inside Government

Increasing diversity within the scientific workforce is a key priority for the government – women make up only 20% of the STEM workforce.  Recognising this shortage, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) presented the Government’s view on increasing diversity in STEM, at a strategy forum in Westminster on 30 March 2017. Keynote speakers included:

  • Susannah Wiltshire, STEM Workforce Policy Lead, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy 
  • Helen Wollaston, Chief Executive, The WISE Campaign
  • Professor Uta Frith DBE FBA FMedSci FRS, Chair of the Royal Society Diversity Committee, The Royal Society 

Surely we can do better than 7%

Helen Wollaston, Chief Executive at the WISE Campaign, discussed the poor number of girls taking science at School (only 7% of girls enter STEM Higher Education) and the inevitable impact this has on the number of female STEM graduates, and ultimately on the female representation in the UK workforce. The importance of early intervention for increasing women in STEM was emphasised by Liz Painter, Assistant Curriculum Leader for KS3 Science and STEM Lead, Sandbach High School.

Understanding unconscious bias and the long-term effect that a small bias can have over a career lifetime, was identified as a key factor in the success of female STEM academics. Professor Uta Frith FRS discussed her work towards removing unconscious bias from the Royal Society's decision making committees, and the need to increase the number of female Fellows of the Royal Society - currently only 7% of all Fellows are female.

With the attainment of gender parity in STEM disciplines described as "a marathon rather than a sprint", the lively panel discussion considered long-term strategies to overcome challenges and barriers to increasing women in STEM. Certainly a very thought-provoking day all round, and clearly a lot of good work going on across the UK!

Images courtesy of Helen Wollaston, the WISE Campaign