New inquiry examines diversity in STEM

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New inquiry by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee investigates the extent of underrepresentation amongst those working in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and asks what policies the Government, industry and academia could use to address it.

The cross-party group of MPs will explore the implications that a lack of diversity in STEM has for the UK’s science and technology sectors, and ask how effective measures taken to improve diversity within the field have been thus far.

In recent years The Royal Society has recognised the problem of an underrepresentation in STEM, commissioning its Diversity Committee to undertake research into supporting scientists from ethnic minority backgrounds, and scientists with disabilities.

In November 2020 evidence to the Science and Technology Committee, UKRI Chief Executive Dame Ottoline Leyser emphasised the importance of diversity in research and innovation, stating that people with ‘different ideas and different backgrounds’ needed to come together to make ‘extraordinary things happen.’

The Committee will explore how policymakers, funding bodies, industry and academia can work to address issues identified during the course of the inquiry.

While there is significant variation in rates of progression and outcomes across ethnic minority groups, research shows that ethnic minority staff and students have consistently poorer outcomes than white staff and students.

There is also variation within ethnic minorities. Recent data from the APPG on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM show that 65% of the STEM workforce are white men and that, proportionally, white women are less likely to be STEM workers than ethnic minority women.

Further, the percentage of academic staff with a known disability is lower for staff working in STEM than non-STEM, and 2020 data analysis from the APPG on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM found that disabled people of all ethnicities are underrepresented in the STEM workforce.

While there is comparatively less data on the socioeconomic background of the STEM workforce a 2014 Royal Society report found that it does have a strong effect on an individual’s likelihood of entering the scientific workforce.

As part of the inquiry, Committee is seeking written submissions by Friday 14 January 2022 addressing any or all of the following topics:

  • The nature or extent to which women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds are underrepresented in STEM in academia and industry;
  • The reasons why these groups are underrepresented;
  • The implications of these groups being underrepresented in STEM roles in academia and industry;
  • What has been done to address underrepresentation of particular groups in STEM roles; and
  • What could and should be done by the UK Government, UK Research and Innovation, other funding bodies, industry and academia to address the issues identified.

More information about this call for evidence and how to take part is available on the UK Parliament website.