Where are the women?

Often the preserve of men in white lab coats, the UK science sector is suffering due to a shortage of women according to QinetiQ.

Traditionally the preserve of men in white lab coats, the UK science sector is suffering due to a shortage of women according to QinetiQ, the UK based science and technology research organisation.

Over £70 billion worth of industry-trained scientific talent is said to be going to waste as many organisations in the sector refuse to address why so few qualified women choose to work in science.

Recent research shows that three quarters of the 290,000 UK women of working age with degrees in science, engineering and technology (SET) related subjects fail to take up careers in those areas, despite around 50,000 of them already possessing SET related work experience, said QinetiQ in a statement.

Furthermore, within the IT, electronics, telecommunications and broadcasting sectors women make up only 28% of the total work force, proportionally lower than most other developed countries including the USA, Canada and Taiwan. The proportion of women in specific jobs involving developing and producing technology in those sectors is just 9%, compared to over 20% in the USA.

These trends in the British science sector are all the more surprising given that girls continue to out perform boys at GSCE level science. And the proportion of girls achieving science related A Levels is also growing, with 8.7% growth in the last five years, compared with boys who have dropped by 1.6% over that period.

‘The UK’s position as a leader in the global science sector is under threat. We will pay the cost for not exploiting a valuable pool of female scientific talent,’ said Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, Chairman of QinetiQ.

‘Science and technology companies need to take a long hard look at why women are not entering careers in this sector. Collectively we need to help make this area more attractive to girls at school then ensure that they capitalise on their qualifications rather than embark on unrelated careers,’ she added.

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