The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM launches new inquiry on Equity in the STEM workforce - Veterinary Practice
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The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM launches new inquiry on Equity in the STEM workforce

This inquiry follows the group’s inquiry on Equity in STEM Education which found clear evidence of inequity at each stage of the education journey

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Diversity and Inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) has launched its new inquiry into Equity in the UK STEM workforce and is looking for companies and organisations to submit their own evidence and data.

This inquiry follows the group’s inquiry on Equity in STEM Education which found clear evidence of inequity at each stage of the education journey from early years to the workplace, becoming more pronounced at GCSE and beyond.

The current workforce inquiry will therefore look at the experiences of STEM employers, employees and other relevant organisations in their efforts to promote a diverse and inclusive environment. The final report will be launched in summer 2021.

To inform the inquiry, the APPG has already published a Data Analysis Brief on the diversity and representation in the STEM (including health) workforce as it stood in 2019. The key findings include:

  • Out of a workforce of 32.8 million people, 5.9 million (18 percent) worked in STEM occupations. Of these 65 percent of the STEM workforce are White men.
  • Of those identified as veterinarian professionals or working in animal care 83 percent are female
  • The STEM workforce has a lower share of female workers (27 percent vs. 52 percent) and disabled people (11 percent vs. 14 percent) than the rest of the workforce.
  • Disabled people of all ethnicities are underrepresented in the STEM workforce.
  • The gap in representation between STEM workers and the wider workforce is larger for disabled women than disabled men. While a majority of non-STEM disabled workers are female (59 percent), only one-third (33percent) of STEM disabled workers are female.

The veterinary and animal care sector has the opposite gender gap issue to the rest of the STEM workforce, the inquiry seeks to investigate equity across all areas in STEM wherever there are barriers to entry. The APPG are calling on STEM employers, employees and relevant organisations involved in STEM to respond to their Call for Evidence in order to gain a representative view of the environment and culture of UK STEM workplaces. These submissions of evidence, along with evidence sessions and review of relevant literature, will inform recommendations to Government in the subsequent report. The previous report on equity in education can be found online; since publication it has received a response from the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, and the APPG will be following up in the coming months.

The deadline for submissions of evidence is Friday 29 January 2021 at 17.00.

The APPG have published a guidance document to assist with coordinating a response. To submit evidence please visit the website.

The BSA, who act as secretariat of the group, hosted a launch event for the inquiry. The launch event featured speakers from across the STEM sector:

  • Chi Onwurah, Chair of this APPG and MP for Newcastle Central, Shadow Minister for Digital, Science and Technology
  • Hannah Barham-Brown, NHS Doctor, disability advocate and Deputy leader of the Women’s Equality Party
  • Kayisha Payne, Founder of Black British Professionals in STEM and Associate Scientist at AstraZeneca
  • Gina Rippon, Professor Emeritus of Cognitive NeuroImaging, Aston Brain Centre, Aston University
  • John Amaechi, CEO, APS

The speakers discussed the importance of this inquiry in the overall context of STEM diversity. In her opening remarks, Chi Onwurah MP spoke of her experiences in STEM as an electrical engineer:

Working as an engineer, I was very often the only person of colour in the room, the only woman in the room, the only working-class person, and the only northerner. Being the “only one”, as well as the prejudices, stereotypes and discrimination that might be associated with that, is also very tiring. It’s very, very tiring. I think that’s something those who are in better represented groups don’t always understand.”

Chi also explained why the STEM sector need to participate in this inquiry:

“The figures [from the data analysis brief] don’t tell the whole story which is why we’re opening a call for evidence; to understand people’s lived experiences, and the challenges faced by individuals in groups across the 5.9 million people who work in STEM.

“I’m particularly disappointed that, as a country with a fantastic history in science and engineering, we still have a huge STEM skills gap, and we’re still not tapping into the talent of those from underrepresented groups who could make such a difference.

“As a country we cannot continue to use such limited parts of our talent. That’s why we are launching this call for evidence.”

One recurring theme later on in the discussion was an organisation’s image and what this says to outsiders and prospective employees. The speakers and Zoom audience alike agreed that, for the STEM workforce to be more diverse, employers must display and embody diversity and inclusivity. Organisations need to show that they welcome everyone, and that opportunities are available to anyone. John Amaechi
gave us this evocative analogy:

“I don’t go into pubs that have England flag bunting out the front. I don’t go into them because I know that not all pubs with England flag bunting are BNP pubs, but I also know that every BNP pub has England flag bunting out the front of it.

“I often wonder if organisations in STEM realise how much ’bunting’ they have up outside, and what it’s telling people with disabilities, people of colour, women – what it’s telling them about whether they should be coming here at all.”

Hannah Barham-Brown shared her exasperation of the portrayal of disabled workers and her experiences of being a healthcare professional with a disability:

“Every stock photo I see of a wheelchair user is in a really bulky, very unattractive wheelchair. […] They’re always kind of at the wrong height for the desk they’re parked at and it looks really difficult.

“I think that’s one of the key reasons I regularly get students emailing me saying, ’How do you do it?’ Not just how do you get through medical school but how do you “do doctoring”?

“Because they don’t see us, they don’t see us at all. So, I think it’s hugely important the images we do have are actually authentic and we don’t get that at the moment.”

The data clearly illustrates less diversity in STEM compared to the wider workforce, particularly in gender and disability. The APPG’s inquiry aims to understand and address this to ensure the industry attracts the talent necessary to build a capable and innovative UK STEM workforce.

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