Women are under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforces, particularly at senior levels. Simply put many more women train in STEM subjects than move into the STEM workforce. The percentage of university graduates who do this, remain as part of the workforce or move into senior positions is far greater for men than for women despite a roughly equal gender mix in the subjects at school level.
Scotland needs to use the resources of all sectors of society, so overcoming gender stereotypes in science, engineering and technology is in everyone's interest, and will help Scotland to thrive.
A motion agreed by the Parliament following a debate on Science for Scotland in 2009 called upon the Scottish Government "to include in its science strategy specific action to improve the participation and employment of women in the science sector".
As a result of this motion, a think tank took place in February 2010 co-chaired by Professor Anne Glover and Professor Alice Brown of the University of Edinburgh. A number of recommendations were agreed which are being taken forward.
The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), with the involvement of the Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland, set up a working group with the aim of providing practical advice on what can be done to increase:
- The proportion of women in the Science, Technology, engineering and Mathematics workforce
- The number of women who rise to senior positions in universities, institutes and business.
The report from this group was published in April 2012.
The United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) considered 'Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women's equal access to full employment and decent work' as its priority theme during its fifty-fifth session in 2011.