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Commons committee launches STEM diversity inquiry

Inquiry will assess the lack of diversity in UK science, technology, engineering and maths and will measure current attempts to improve representation

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has launched an inquiry to look into the lack of diversity in UK science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The Diversity in STEM inquiry will assess the extent of the lack of diversity in the UK’s STEM sectors, look into its impact on the UK science and technology sectors, and measure the success of current attempts to improve diversity in these sectors.

The inquiry will also investigate how government policies, industry initiatives and education providers can work to address the lack of diversity in STEM.

Greg Clark, chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: “Innovation flourishes in environments where differences in backgrounds and ways of thinking are celebrated. The greatest scientific theories have often challenged the status quo. It is of the utmost importance that the STEM sector is one in which diversity is encouraged, and career paths are made accessible for all.

“It is clear, however, that this is not our current reality. Ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic background and living with a disability play huge roles in determining career outcomes and progress in STEM. For the UK to achieve its full potential as a world leader in science, our thinkers and innovators must reflect the talent of the whole of society.”

The UK’s technology sector in particular suffers from a lack of diversity. A recent report from BCS found that women make up about 17% of IT specialists in the UK, while around 8% of IT specialists are of Indian ethnicity, 2% from a black, African, Caribbean or black British background, and 2% from a Pakistani or Bangladeshi background.

There are many possible reasons for this, including a lack of visible and accessible role models, misconceptions about the types of people who choose tech careers, and a lack of inclusion in the sector putting people off joining or leading to people leaving the industry.

To explore why there is a lack of diversity in UK STEM, how it is affecting the country’s STEM sectors and what can be done to address this, the inquiry is accepting submissions for evidence looking into areas such as the extent of the lack of diversity in STEM, why there is under-representation of groups such as women, ethnic minorities, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and people with disabilities.

It is also seeking evidence investigating the impact of this lack of diversity in STEM on these sectors.

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There are already a number of initiatives in place trying to boost diversity and inclusion in the tech sector. Recent examples include: Tech Nation publishing a toolkit aimed at helping technology founders build more diverse and inclusive companies; a group of tech companies creating the Alliance for Global Inclusion to tackle the lack of diversity and inclusion in the sector; the launch of the charity Tech She Can to encourage young women to consider tech careers; and ongoing benchmarking and advisory work from the Tech Talent Charter.

Part of the inquiry will look at what is currently being done to address these issues, and what should be done in the future.

Clark added: “Our committee will now be investigating the barriers holding people back from entering and progressing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and asking how the government, academia and industry can bring about transformational change.”

The Diversity in STEM inquiry is accepting submissions of evidence until Friday 14 January 2022.

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