Women in science, engineering and technology

Calm down dears! Prime minister wakes up to under-representation of women in science, engineering and technology

The prime minister has agreed to look again at the government’s decision to axe its funding for the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology.

Between April 2008 and October 2010, the UKRC provided gender equality advice to over 750 SET employers and organisations reaching over one million people.

But in December 2010, the government announced that funding for the UKRC would not be renewed.

Prospect wrote to the science minister at the time saying: “As a union we are acutely aware of the under-representation of women in SET functions and industries, and of the valuable role played by UKRC in encouraging young women to take up SET careers as well as in supporting women returners.

“It is of great concern to us this decision appears to be motivated more by a wider deprioritisation of work on gender equality than any assessment of need, and we urge you to reconsider.

It pointed out that despite the demand for such skills, there was no evidence to show that the SET labour market was able to address the challenges of women’s under-representation without support from expert practitioner bodies, such as UKRC.

On January 10, MP Valerie Vaz asked the prime minister: “Given there are a million women unemployed and women make up only 12.3 per cent of people working science, engineering and technology could the prime minister look again at funding for UKRC and thereby restoring Britain to a leading role for science in this country that nurtured the talents of Dorothy Hodgkin and Rosalind Franklin.”

The PM said he would “certainly look at the case the honourable lady set out” and get back to her.

UKRC’s director Jane Butcher said: ”The government’s policy framework requires independent expertise on equality and diversity in STEM, to act as a driver and catalyst for major organisations, to support the lead bodies in this field, and to work with businesses and individual women.

“This requires a realistic level of funding. At the UKRC we are unique in the combination of experience and skill we bring to these important issues, and the products and services we have developed.”