Union women changing attitudes

Union women helping to change attitudes in male-dominated industries

The under-representation of women in key parts of the economy must be addressed by the government – and unions have a vital part to play in raising awareness – Prospect will tell TUC conference tomorrow (Sunday).

Only 13% of all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs in the UK are occupied by women.

They are similarly under-represented in sectors such as transport, construction, farming, forestry and some health professions.

On Sunday the conference in Bournemouth will debate a Prospect motion seeking to redress the balance.

On Monday, Prospect will host a fringe meeting where women will talk about how they are they are working to make a difference.

  • Union reps Lindsay Chapman (National Physical Laboratory) and Ele Wade (Intellectual Property Office) will talk about what they are doing in their workplaces;
  • Meg Munn MP on her work on women in STEM; and
  • Leonora Saunders, Guardian features photographer, on changing attitudes through images of women in male-dominated industries.

The union is producing a calendar with Leonora featuring Prospect members in areas like the Highways Agency, Marine Management Organisation and the defence sector.

Money raised will go to a joint Prospect-Oxfam project with women in Nairobi’s Korogocho and Mukuru slums.

Sue Ferns, director of communications and research, said the current situation is untenable, given that it is 100 years since the death of suffragette Emily Davison, and 43 years since the Equal Pay Act. “The current gap represents a huge loss of talent and perpetuates an unfair society.

“Even worse, many women qualify in STEM subjects but never use their academic qualification, or quickly leave their jobs for other occupations.

"They are put off by insecure employment, male-dominated work groups and entrenched prejudices against part-time working."

Prospect’s motion calls on the TUC general council to promote:

  • apprenticeship, mentoring and coaching programmes to encourage young women to enter male-dominated industries and support their development
  • examples and case studies showing good practice
  • action to remove barriers to flexible and part-time working
  • positive and diverse images of women at work. 

“Professional women can make a huge contribution to economic growth and productivity and employers need to embrace their talents and increase their representation at board level,” concluded Ferns.

Fringe meeting, Monday, 12.45, Tregonwell Bar, lunch provided.

Prospect’s charter for women.

STEM statistics