Wednesday, June 17, 2015

UK Struggles with Underrepresentation of Women in STEM Professions

For a while now it has been commonly known that there is a severe underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering and math. In 2014 it was found that in the UK there were around 4.71 million males working in STEM fields and only 0.69 million women in the same occupation. The vast difference once again shows the proof that the STEM industries are a boys club.

The issue was again brought to light after Nobel prize-winning biochemist Tim Hunt resigned from his position at University College London after making comments about the ‘trouble with girls’ in laboratories. Hunt whilst at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, South Korea, commented “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls…Three things happen when they are in the lab…You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry."

This comment, which led to Hunt resigning, whilst causing much outrage, signaled again to many the issue that women are still underrepresented across almost all levels of science. In the UK, women make up just 12.8% of the STEM workforce. This is only up 0.2% from 2012 which hardly going to make a difference. The lack of females in STEM fields has caused great concern in the UK in recent years and it was identified that in order to generate higher numbers of scientists and engineers that the economy requires, then getting more females enrolled in a science course at university and in schools was the key.

It has been found that in the UK, women are under-represented at professorial levels in academic research careers in all STEM disciplines (typically 17 percent less). The proportion of boys is considerably higher too when it comes to undergraduate and graduate degrees in STEM subjects. There are found to be 12 percent more males in undergraduate and graduate degrees.

The comparison can be seen across the pond in America as well. The top computer programs have male dominated courses which has been found to cause confidence issues for the smaller numbers of females who take the course. The confidence issues are seen in the UK too; at A-Level girls were found to lack confidence in science and math even when their results were better than the boys.'

There have been movements in the USA to try and promote STEM fields to younger females in order to boost numbers at college level and this needs to be implemented in the UK and across the world. Increasing numbers of women in science professions will cause more to filter into the industry and start to take down the boys clubs that have moved from the colleges to the top of the industries. This in turn will create role models that younger female STEM enthusiasts can look at and give them the confidence to step into scientific careers.


About the Author: Harry Kempe, a marketing intern at IIR USA, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. He is a recent graduate of Newcastle University who previously worked for EMAP Ltd. and WGSN as a marketing assistant on events such as the World Architecture Festival, World Retail Congress and Global Fashion Awards. He can be reached at hkempe@IIRUSA.com

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