- 26 June 2013
The Society’s annual Parliamentary Links Day was a huge success, with MPs, ministers, representatives of the science community and Twitter users discussing diversity in science.
Andrew Miller, chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee, announced an inquiry would be launched to look at women in STEM careers. He discussed what Government can do to prevent the drop off of women from academia, and the fact that only 9% of top-level jobs in natural science are held by women.
The largest science event on the annual Parliamentary events calendar, Links Day is organised by the Society of Biology on behalf of the science and engineering community to strengthen dialogue with Parliament and to provide MPs with a more rounded understanding of scientific issues. This year speakers explored the ways in which the scientific community contributes to the diversity of science and engineering but also the major issues of diversity within science and engineering.
An all-woman panel, including Professor Alice Brown (Royal Society of Edinburgh), Dr Heather Williams (Science Grrl), Dr Cathy Hobbs (Council for the Mathematical Sciences) Beck Smith (Campaign for Science and Engineering) and Professor Lesley Yellowlees (Royal Society of Chemistry) discussed the loss of talent and opportunities from women leaving science and called for more ‘policy-muscle’ to speed up improvements in diversity in science.
Science and Universities minister David Willetts, in his keynote address, supported the idea that universities should take students with general science qualifications rather than pressuring students to decide what discipline they want to study at 16 – when many girls drop physics.
He said that the science community should represent the country it emerges from.
Debate at the event and across Twitter covered topics including the 'leaky pipeline' through academia, social mobility, integrating the sciences in schools, work experience and parental leave. A summary of the event can be found on Storify.
Other panellists and speakers included Professor Sir Peter Knight (Institute of Physics), Professor Dame Julia Higgins (The Royal Society), Anne Foster (House of Commons Diversity and Inclusion Unit), Dr John Conway (STEM Disability Committee), Roma Agrawal (WSP Group) and Professor Amrita Ahluwalia (British Pharmacological Society).