Fri 10 Feb 2023

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Saturday 11 February marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The day was adopted by a UN resolution in 2015 to highlight the need to achieve full and equal access and participation in science for women and girls

Despite attempts in recent years to engage women and girls in science, they continue to be underrepresented in this field.  According to UNESCO, women represent only 35% of students studying STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering and maths) in higher education.

Here in Scotland, it is estimated that only 25% of the STEM sector are women. Of those women who do study at university and qualify in STEM subjects, only 30% of them are likely to remain in the industry. From that 30%, only a handful will make it to senior roles. At present a recruitment crisis in STEM, is costing UK businesses around £1.5 billion a year and employers need to widen the talent pool. Furthermore, a diverse workforce has consistently been shown to generate innovation and increased financial performance.

What can employers do? : Positive Action

Positive action describes a range of measures which are permitted under the Equality Act 2010 to encourage the recruitment and promotion of people from under-represented groups based on protected characteristics (such as gender or race), to help them overcome disadvantages in competing with other applicants. Specifically, positive action can be used to attract and retain more female candidates to the STEM field. 

These measures may include:

  • Mentoring and sponsorship
  • Targeted recruitment 
  • Outreach programmes or events

Such measures can be targeted solely at the under-represented group.

Positive action should not, however, be confused with positive discrimination which is unlawful. Measures which amount to positive discrimination include the setting of quotas or reserving posts for women. 

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