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Sunday, 9th February 2014

UK: Women in Scientific Careers

Source: House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (UK)

From Summary:

Many attempts have been made to improve the under-representation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers in the UK. Yet currently only 17 per cent of STEM professors are women. It is astonishing that despite clear imperatives and multiple initiatives to improve diversity in STEM, women still remain under-represented at senior levels across every discipline. One compelling reason to tackle this problem is that the UK economy needs more STEM workers and we cannot meet the demand without increasing the numbers of women in STEM.

There is no single explanation for the lack of gender diversity in STEM; it is the result of perceptions and biases combined with the impracticalities of combining a career with family. Scientists often consider themselves to be objective and unbiased, yet studies have shown that scientists are susceptible to the same biases as the rest of the population. Therefore we have recommended that diversity and equality training should be provided to all STEM undergraduate and postgraduate students. It should also be mandatory for all members of recruitment and promotion panels and line managers.

Early academic STEM careers are characterised by short term contracts, which are a barrier to job security and continuity of employment rights. This career stage coincides with the time when many women are considering starting families, and because women tend to be primary carers, they are more likely than men to end their STEM career at this stage. We call on the Government to work with the higher education sector to review the academic career structure and increase the number of longer-term positions for post-doctoral researchers. We have found that what benefits women benefits everyone in the STEM workplace.

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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

Adrian can be reached at adrian.janes@freepint.com

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