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The Society of Biology welcomes the House of Commons Science & Technology report on Women in Science Careers published today (6th February 2014).

Supporting scientists throughout their careers is at the heart of the Society’s work, and more should be done throughout the scientific community to ensure women are represented at every level.
 
The report calls for an increase in the number of longer-term positions for post-doctoral researchers, and for diversity training to be introduced for students, line managers, and people on recruitment panels. It noted that Government efforts are largely focused on encouraging girls to study STEM, with little focus on enabling them to progress in STEM careers.
 
Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, says:
 
“Compared to other STEM subjects, the biosciences have quite an equal gender balance among early-career scientists, but women are progressively less well represented at more senior positions along the career ladder. In 2011/12, 61% of UK bioscience postgraduate students were female compared to just 15% of professors [HESA 2011/12].
 
“The reasons behind this are complex, and there is a concerning lack of evidence for why this happens. One important issue is that the academic career structure does not favour career breaks. The barriers to returning affect anyone who has taken careers breaks, for example due to unemployment, career changes, or caring for children or relatives. The report acknowledged that what benefits women benefits everyone in the STEM workplace and we are working to overcome these barriers for both men and women.
 
“It is gratifying to see that the report references work done by the Society of Biology, and this work will continue. Many of our Member Organisations are likewise doing valuable work on diversity issues, which also fed into this report. The Society is developing an initiative to support those wishing to returners to work in the life sciences following a career break. We will take into account the report’s recommendation that learned societies publicise positive role models and review how gender analysis benefits research.
 
“The report expresses disappointment that BIS spending dedicated to improving diversity in STEM was virtually halved in the 2010 Spending Review, and the Society of Biology recognises that targeted investment in diversity will be essential for success.”

 

The Committee’s report on this topic has now been published and it contains a number of references to the Society of Biology’s response.

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