On the independent:
MPs have launched a formal parliamentary inquiry into whether British science is institutionally sexist. Concern at the high numbers of women scientists abandoning their careers has prompted the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee to look into why Britain is failing to stop females dropping out of science.
Only 13 per cent of the science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) workforce are women. While more young people are studying Stem subjects up to GCSE, female participation drops off at A-level. Further up the career ladder, women are increasingly under-represented. A 2012 European Commission study found that, although around 42 per cent of UK academic staff are women, the figure for the most senior research grade is only about 17 per cent, below the EU average.
The Royal Society, which advises the Government on science, has launched a separate investigation into whether greater gender diversity would lead to better science. Such is the sensitivity around the issue that the study’s announcement provoked a public spat when a critic claimed the research would result in the need to make a business case for equality when solid moral arguments already existed.
Beverly Gibbs, a PhD student at Nottingham University, claimed the Royal Society study “will help move the goalposts from where diversity is the ‘usual business’ that we expect to where diversity is the exception, where it has to be justified in terms of increased output”. She warned the government-funded study would mean future diversity debates will be dominated by economic rather than moral arguments. [Rest.]