Last year I asked Baroness Susan Greenfield to advise me on what more we in Government should be doing to break down the remaining barriers to women studying and working in science, engineering, and technology. I am extremely grateful to Baroness Greenfield and her team for their work.
Her report SET Fair published in November 2002 laid out women’s perceptions and experiences, and identified barriers to progress in their education and career development. It contained a wide-ranging set of helpful recommendations. Since then, we have been considering how best to take these forward as an integral, coherent part of our broader equality work.
In this document, I am setting out our strategy for addressing the issues that Baroness Greenfield identified. It takes particular account of the many developments that have taken place regarding gender equality, and recent achievements in science, engineering and technology. It sets out a comprehensive strategy, organised around the different key levers that are at the disposal of the Government.
- Government has a major influence on the world of work as a major employer of scientists and engineers, and with other employers as legislator and through supporting change;
- Government funds primary, secondary, further, and higher education, as well as life long learning; and
- Government is a significant investor in research and researchers.
As the Cabinet Minister with particular responsibilities for both science and women, I am encouraged by the progress made since 1997, and especially with regard to women’s educational achievements in science, engineering and technology subjects. The reforms we are now making will support further progress at all levels within schools, colleges and higher education institutions. However, we can and must do more to overcome the cultural and other barriers that still exist, especially in employment in both the public and private sectors.
This new strategy is based firmly on the principles of partnership and mainstreaming and is intended to support the present generation of senior scientists, mainly men, who want to help create a more equitable future. We must work closely with employers, and with the education sector to identify, promulgate and embed best practice. Equally important, we must ensure that our work on this issue is genuinely joined up with our policy framework for achieving gender equality.
Finally, this strategy aims to build on the existing work of the many dedicated women and women’s groups, who have tirelessly worked to improve the position of women in science, to mainstream these issues and bring about real and lasting change. The impact of this change will go beyond those women working in science, or aspiring to work in science, to help create a more inclusive science, for the benefit of the economy and society as a whole.