Improving diversity in STEM
Posted on 27/02/2014
From left-to-right: Michael Luck, Sarah Main and Evelyn Welch
King’s and CaSE host policy forum on improving diversity in STEM
On 27th February King’s College London was delighted to partner with the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) in order to host a cross-sector round table forum exploring issues connected to diversity in STEM that will feature in CaSE’s political advocacy agenda ahead of the 2015 General Election.
Over 40 different member organisations in CaSE attended the event, with representatives coming from other universities, STEM businesses and a diverse range of funding charities, learned societies and professional bodies.
The round table used a new report produced by CaSE which explored the present diversity picture in terms of gender, socioeconomic background, ethnicity and disability across STEM education and employment, as a starting point for a discussion around what key diversity related thematic issues and policy proposals should be at the heart of CaSE’s influencing strategy to inform the manifesto pledges ahead of the next General Election.
In order to help set the scene, Professor Evelyn Welch, Vice-Principal (Arts and Sciences) at King’s, updated attendees on the progress King’s has been making in terms of developing effective practice in relation to boosting diversity in the staff and student base.
In her speech, Professor Welch highlighted:
• The critical importance placed on improving diversity in STEM as part of King’s forthcoming, overarching Science Strategy and the strong degree of ‘buy in’ amongst the senior leadership team at King’s to both Athena SWAN and the broader equality and diversity agenda;
• Our recent success in achieving renewal of our Bronze status in the Athena SWAN Charter scheme
• Programmes the College is advancing such as rolling out unconscious bias training, developing mentoring programmes, and introducing Parenting Leave and Child Care Funds.
Commenting on the importance of improving diversity in the UK’s STEM talent pipeline, Professor Welch said: ‘While of course the issue of equality of opportunity and social mobility are very important motivating factors in their own right, there’s an economic competitiveness imperative at the heart of this issue.
‘We need to make it abundantly clear to politicians and funding bodies that in a globally competitive knowledge economy our ability to attract more bright young people from a wider range of backgrounds into STEM pathways is not an optional extra or a healthy aspiration. It’s a fundamental we have to get right if we’re to really to become the ‘innovation nation’ so often talked about.
‘In a century where the wealth of nations will increasingly be shaped by their capacity for cutting-edge innovation, the UK can’t afford to have a ‘leaky STEM pipeline’. We have to fully utilise the talents of those with an aptitude for STEM subjects and in doing this we have to be ambitious and determined in tackling perceptual as well as structural barriers in STEM workplaces and academia.’
Commenting on the round table forum held at King’s Strand campus, Sarah Main, the Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said: ‘We were delighted that King’s, whose research has contributed so much evidence to the case for diversity, agreed to host the event and share perspectives about what steps they are taking to identify and overcome structural and cultural barriers to greater diversity in STEM.
‘Today’s discussion with our members from across the UK science and engineering sector has enabled us to distil the most important actions that CaSE will call for on behalf of the community in the next term of government. This meeting is part of our Opinion Forum series on funding, education and skills, and scientific advice in government which will form a crucial part of CaSE’s political advocacy and campaigning work in the run-up to the General Election.’
Commenting on the efforts of CaSE to help ensure diversity in STEM remains firmly on the political radar both in the run-up to the next General Election and beyond, Professor Welch said: ‘Today will hopefully have been helpful to CaSE as it frames the development of a set of cohesive and compelling policy proposals that can inform the approaches taken by the parties in their forthcoming manifestos.
‘Here at King’s we look forward to working with CaSE and others to contribute to a healthy national debate around what more can be done, both by policymakers and leaders at the frontline in the STEM community, to really drive progress forward in the years ahead.’
Notes to editors
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Find out more about King’s work as a member of the Athena SWAN Charter.
For more information about the Campaign for Science and Engineering please visit their website.